I’m always hearing about how my brain doesn’t work right…But it doesn’t feel broken to me.
In an insightful, deeply human story reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Daniel Isn’t Talking, and The Reason I Jump, New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova offers a unique perspective in fiction—the extraordinary voice of Anthony, a nonverbal boy with autism. Anthony reveals a neurologically plausible peek inside the mind of autism, why he hates pronouns, why he loves swinging and the number three, how he experiences routine, joy, and love. And it is the voice of this voiceless boy that guides two women in this powerfully unforgettable story to discover the universal truths that connect us all.
This book was more than I expected.
I was quite impressed. I have a degree in Birth-Kindergarten Education and Special Education. I have not only studied children with autism, I have worked with 2 children with autism. They were each on a different part of the spectrum than Anthony in the story. One was verbal and had a mild form of Autism. Her main issues were behavioral and with repetitive and obsessive traits. I rocked her quite often to calm her and keep her from hurting herself. The other child was verbal also, though his language skills had regressed so he was verbally not on the same level as his peers. Anthony in the story is completely non-verbal. So while I have some experience with autism, I do not have experience with a child on the same part of the spectrum as Anthony.
With that said, reading about Anthony was like reading both a fresh perspective and reading about my students all at the same time. The best part of the entire book is the book that Beth begins writing about a small boy with autism. It is actually based off the other main character, Olivia's, child whom she saw once on the beach lining up white rocks. The voice that she gives to Anthony is the gift of voice to all children with autism. It was just SO well done. There is so much more going on inside a child with autism's heart and mind than they can communicate to us. Just because they cannot express it in a way that we understand does not mean it is not in there. Genova explains this beautifully by giving Anthony a voice. I have never felt so close to understanding as I did reading those chapters. It is one thing to study and know the symptoms and how to interact with a child with autism and to understand their different personalities. It is something else altogether meaningful to get right into the heart and I am just not doing it justice. It is simply just beautiful writing.
I LOVED the metaphor Genova adds later on in the book (not a spoiler). It is Anthony talking about his white rocks (which are his pride & joy), but it is a perfect metaphor for not judging a person with autism, or really not judging anyone.
"If you take the time to get close to them and really see them, you will understand that most of my rocks have more inside them than only white."
He is talking about how the rocks are different shades of white where most people only see white. But it is also explaining how children with autism are full of different shades of character and heart and beauty and knowledge where most people only see the autism. How perfectly perfect is that?
I admit that I am not 100% sold on the ending. The whole book was very real and raw and straight-forward, in my opinion, and the ending was sort of flowery and dressed up. It was a departure from the rest of the book so even though it was a tidy ending, I was left kind of feeling blah about it. However, that is pretty much the one and only thing I would have changed about the book. I was so moved by this story. I hope you will find time to read it. I am going to have to find time to read it again and again.