Robert Hoge has an extraordinary story to tell that truly does begin from the moment he was born. From medical complications stemming from medication taken during his mother’s pregnancy, Hoge’s legs were in need of almost immediate amputation, and he was born with a tumour smack bang in the middle of his face that pushed everything else outward from their original position. But what makes Hoge and his family’s story truly remarkable, is just how damn normal his life was 90% of the time.
From the first time I read a brief part of Hoge’s story in a piece in The Age’s, Good Weekend magazine, his life and the message that came with it, instantly captured me. An underdog is always everyone’s favourite hero, and overcoming schoolyard taunts and any inner struggle is a recipe for magic. To say that I wasn’t slightly hoping for a book about a man getting trodden on over the years then surprising the world by achieving greatness, would be a lie. But once I realised that the book would not be a sob story with the intention of giving a big middle finger to those who made his life hell, that is when the true magic of Hoge came to light, and the class and values he has instilled really begun to shine.
The true heroism of Hoge, and the love he received every day from his family, came from the normalcy of the life he was able to lead. From becoming friends with kids on the first day of school because they shared the same name, to the awkwardness of his first kiss and the battle of working your way up the corporate ladder, Hoge’s story is so startlingly normal given his circumstances, that the inspiring message comes forth that if he can find the love of his life and become the best in his field of work given the possible restraints that come with abnormality, then what the hell is stopping you from becoming your best?
You never stop rooting for Hoge because, somehow, there a parts of yourself that you can relate to in his story. So the revolutionary facial surgery and the song dedication he gets from Cher may not exactly be day-to-day activities for the majority of us, but the yearning to blend in at school with all the ‘normal’ kids, and the coming to terms with the parts of yourselves you always wished that you could change will never cease to hit a nerve with all readers, no matter what their age or circumstances.
Although for me, the book really had its best moments right at the end, leading up to a finale that was so simple, so touching, yet somehow so beautifully mind-blowing that its effect stayed with me for days afterwards. In the aftermath of a family tragedy, the love and support Hoge has received from his entire family over his lifetime is truly felt and summed up in a way that is so fluid
and seemingly without intent that it really hits home how lucky he was – and is – to be born into the Hoge family. And in the finale pages, with Hoge’s fears of his condition being hereditary, and the true beauty he witnesses in his newborn daughter, there couldn’t be a more fitting way to finish his story.
Through the relationships he makes over his life, whether it be with his family, his girlfriends, or a particularly touching relationship with his bowls coach, Frank, it is clear that the shallow-minded may judge beauty at face value, but the people who are worthy of trying to impress, will see the beauty of a spirit more clearly than anything else.
Ugly: My Memoir
By Robert Hoge