Book Review: The Strangest Song

From Gloria’s premature birth, Howard and Sylvia Lenhoff suspected there was something seriously wrong with their daughter. She cried nonstop, failed to thrive, consistently missed all the important developmental milestones and was diagnosed as retarded. Distraught, Gloria’s parents searched for answers while torturing themselves with the inevitable questions and guilt that comes with the specter of retardation. As Gloria turned one, unusual traits began to manifest, she clearly enjoyed different languages, music and was fascinated by faces. Her parents encouraged Gloria’s growing musical interest, eventually getting her voice instruction while continuing to research what was wrong with their daughter. As Gloria matured and worked with voice coaches, she became an accomplished singer who has performed at the Kennedy Center and major opera houses and concert halls across the country.

For nearly forty years Howard continued his quest to find the reason for Gloria’s condition before finally receiving the answer. A simple genetic flaw proved responsible for something called the Williams syndrome which is typified by a heart disorder, an outgoing personality and extraordinary musical gifts. Throughout the years, Howard continued to fight for his daughter’s right to fully develop as a person and a musician while seeking more information about this strange disorder, creating a story that is as much about his tireless efforts as it is about this special young woman.

Sforza has created a touching story of a family’s love and determination while providing the latest research and insights into the genome as it pertains to the behavioral sciences. The reader is challenged to examine their perceptions of special needs children and what kind of life these children can anticipate as adults. As a research scientist, Howard advocates more serious studies of Williams people including not only their musical abilities but also their rates of physical and mental aging to see how they compare to the general population. Anyone interested in music savants, the current findings and what their families have gone through and the future they face, will enjoy this warm story of a very special family.

Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.