A Genetic Hunger for Connection and Friendship - Pacific Standard

A Genetic Hunger for Connection and Friendship

Jennifer Latson's debut illustrates a boy's coming-of-age, complicated by a genetic disorder that strips peoples' social inhibitions.
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The Boy Who Loved Too Much: A True Story of Pathological Friendliness.

The Boy Who Loved Too Much: A True Story of Pathological Friendliness.

The Boy Who Loved Too Much: A True Story of Pathological Friendliness
Jennifer Latson
Simon & Schuster

Jennifer Latson's impressively intimate debut follows three years in the childhood of Eli, who is one of approximately 30,000 Americans with a genetic disorder called Williams syndrome. People with Williams can have cardiac problems, learning disabilities, motor complications—and a near-total lack of social inhibitions. Hungry for connection and friendship, Eli is irrepressibly open with every stranger he meets; inevitably this backfires, instantly marking him as "different." Watson intersperses evocative scenes from Eli's life as he approaches high school with the history of the disorder. The emotional heart of the story is Eli's relationship with his single mother, Gayle, who struggles with the impossible question of how to protect her too-trusting son while simultaneously preparing him to chart his own path in a world that is often dangerous for its least-skeptical souls.

A version of this story originally appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of Pacific Standard. Subscribe now and get eight issues/year or purchase a single copy of the magazine.

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