This is an older review that I had written in September, 2012. It has a very special meaning to me as you will learn if you read it. So, if you enjoy the review and it intrigues you, please read the book and have a compelling emotional experience...it will totally captivate and entertain you. Lisa Genova is one engaging author!!
First, I just want to say ”thank you” to Ms. Genova for writing a book about autism. Regardless if this is a book of fiction, I found myself re-living daily episodes from the past years 19 years with my own son. The author really did her research well. It just gave me a sense of peace that I haven’t felt in a long time. I could relate to the main character, Olivia who constantly questions - “Why my son?”, “Why my family?”, “Was it something I did wrong while I was pregnant?”, and “Will we ever find out the true answer?”. Every day in this world we are faced with destruction, chaos, and tragedy – just trying to pick up the pieces for a life gone wrong. But autism does not come from life’s hard-knock choices. It comes from the unknown - a force yet to be reckoned with. So how do we live through the challenges of not knowing what’s in store with our innocent trusting children? Day by day, that’s how – knowing and hoping that you’re making the right choices for them because that is all they have in their corner – you!
This book didn’t just deal so much with the medical and scholastic aspects of autism. It dealt a lot with the feelings that come with having a child diagnosed with this life-long tragedy. It was beautiful, heartfelt, and meaningful. Now some people have criticized the author’s novel for having too many unnecessary details that were not needed to enrich the story. Well I, for one, thought that the details were important and necessary. It made the story more believable...because, after all, we all have a life to live. I have three other children, and life couldn’t be more hectic. I had to learn to spread myself pretty thin when they were young, and my husband held a job that was very demanding and time-consuming. Now, life is a little easier because my kids are 21, 19, 17, and 16. Without those extra details present in the book, it wouldn’t have shown how autism can have a huge impact on anyone who comes in contact with the disability, not just family members. For example in my experience, I have had people not be able to talk to me or look me in the eye when they first found out about what my son was dealing with, and other times, people wanted to know everything – they were just so interested and supportive. People’s reactions were weird at times. Some people treated my son like any other child, not drawing unwanted critical attention to him, and other people looked like they were scared to death, and didn’t know how to treat him. You never knew what people were going to think or blame you for when they didn’t really know what was really going on. I had people scream at me to take him home when he was having a episode in public, and other people offering their help. I was always surprised one way or the other. And, that’s exactly how Olivia is portrayed in the book when faced with awkward situations from her son, Anthony.
I absolutely loved the book-within-a-book idea. The other main character, Beth, writes a novella told by Anthony, while also living through her own more intimate family crisis. It’s written from his point-of-view. It was simply magical! After reading numerous books and looking up things on the internet for years, it just gave me a different incite as to how these children think and learn. What’s in their head is such a mystery. One minute you think you know what they are thinking because of a past episode, and the next minute, you’re scratching your head saying, “How can that be? It wasn’t like that the last time.” It definitely always keeps you on your toes and constantly keeping your brain in working order. There’s never a dull moment. It’s not all about the tough times, though. It’s also about the happy ones – seeing progress right before your very eyes when looking back through the years. The first word spoken – years later than a normal child, but spoken none the less. The first time they actually look in your eyes – not very often, but when it does happen, you’re so excited that just maybe you’re getting through that barrier built from the inside out. And, of course, the first hug – perhaps they will feel, just a smidge, how much they’re loved.
On that note, I just want to acknowledge to Ms. Genova how much I enjoyed her novel. It was inspiring and moving. It was beautiful and mesmerizing. But most of all, for me it was home.This is the life that my son lives each and every day. Every morning he gets up and takes on the same routine – something that feels comfortable and calming to him. You never know what that particular day will be like – good or bad. But I do know this, whatever it takes, he can count on us to do our finest; whatever he needs, we will provide it the most superb way we can; and, whatever makes him happy, we will always have his best interests at heart.
As the reader, you will probably need a few tissues to get you through the sad parts, but hopefully it will give you a better understanding of just what a child and a family goes through when autism is present in their every day lives. It’s not easy, but you do it because you’re all your child has. I do believe that someday there will be a cure to unlock the mysteries surrounding this spectrum disorder that affects 1 in 88 children – autism. Until then, we just have to practice patience and understanding for these children who are just simply extraordinary in every way possible.