September 22, 2016
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It’s hard for anyone to imagine what happens to a parent when a child dies. Unfortunately, having lost a child, I’ve become a bit of an expert and without a doubt Monica Wood got it right in her new novel The One-In-A-Million Boy (B+).
The child referred to as “the boy” was 11 years old when he suddenly died from a rare heart disease no one was aware he had. His parents Quinn and Belle are in shock as is his scoutmaster and an elderly woman of 104 years of age, Ona Vitkus. Taking care of Ona was his new assignment. He was to do chores for her over a period of ten weeks. The boy was an intense child. He had no friends and appeared odd and quirky. His own father, Quinn was unable to handle his behaviors and just didn’t know how to communicate with him. Sadly, he often gave up trying. The stress of the child and the busy “career” that Quinn had as a guitarist destroyed his marriage not once but twice. At the time of the child’s death, he and Belle we again separated.
Reminiscent of A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Wood’s character “the boy” is clearly autistic. Everything he does is done in groups of ten. He obsesses over facts, in particular, those of the Guinness World Book of Records. As Ona gets to know him, she finds he is charming and lovable and she grows strongly attached. As Quinn completes his son’s chores for Ona he becomes attached to her.
Grief is overwhelming. Denial, guilt, love, hate, sadness, frustration are only some of the emotions displayed by these grieving characters. What transpires over the course of this story magnificently portrays how the loss of a child can either destroy or strengthen a parent. While at times it was hard for me, I identified with every aspect depicted. The characters were authentic and powerful. For these reasons, I highly recommend The One-In-A-Million Boy to everyone. It is a story that will impact every reader whether you have suffered a loss or not.
September 15, 2015
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This weekend we went away for a long weekend and the book I brought with me was Best Boy (B) by Eli Gottlieb. It caught my attention on several review lists that I read and since it appeared similar to The Rosie Project; I thought I’d give it a read.
Todd is a 50-year-old autistic man who after living in several institutions has found a home at the Payton Living Center. Here, he leads a routine existence that keeps him focused and balanced. Here, he has very few “volts” episodes. (When he is overwhelmed and not in control he feels as if volts of electricity are shooting through him.)
When a new counselor is introduced, Todd immediately senses a threat to his well-being. The vibes he is picking up from Mike Hinton are disturbing and alarming. Mike reminds him of his abusive Dad. Todd’s instincts are more than correct because Mike has singled Todd out as the resident who can most “help” him at Payton.
Gottlieb has written about autism before and from what I have read very successfully (The Boy Who Went Away). I did not read that, however, since I read The Rosie Project that is what I made my comparison to. I could clearly envision Todd’s anxieties and distress. What troubled me a bit is that since the book was written in the first person (just like The Rosie Project) I felt at times he sounded as if he were speaking about himself rather than for himself. I mean to say he sounded as if he were making observations of someone named Todd who was autistic. I never had that feeling with The Rosie Project – I think Don Tillman’s voice was more honest and authentic.
Nevertheless, Best Boy is worth reading. It did make me a bit anxious and uncomfortable at times but that only meant that I was involved with the story. I am glad that I read it even though for me it couldn’t compare to The Rosie Project.
April 17, 2015
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So this review is a bit behind my reading but several weeks ago I re-read a phenomenal book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (A+) by Mark Haddon. I had to read it again because it had been a long time since I read it the first time and we will be discussing it at our monthly book club meeting. I usually don’t like reading a book over, mostly because it slows me down and I have so many I want to read. However, I was so pleased that I was forced to read this again.
Haddon’s main character Christopher is autistic and he is writing a book and the book we read is his. Christopher likes to wander around his neighborhood at night when he can go undetected. He doesn’t interact with anyone at the hours that he wanders. One evening he comes across a dead dog…a dog that was killed with a pitchfork. He knows the dog and knows who it belongs to and is very concerned that someone has done this. It becomes his mission to find the murderer. Since he avidly reads mysteries he goes about his investigation with skills he’s learned from those books.
His father repeatedly tells him to stop his investigation and “to keep his noise out of other people’s business” and so while trying to keep his promise to his Dad he continues investigating in a different fashion.
What is so remarkable about this novel is that Haddon nails it. His mind and consequently his writing becomes as if he himself were autistic. His portrayal of Christopher is accurate and unforgettable…the story isn’t too bad either!!!
Now on Broadway as a play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime cannot be ignored. While I have not seen the play (but those who have say it’s incredible) I highly recommend that whatever way you can come to know this story that you do. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to come to understand what it is like to be autistic in today’s world. I am eager for our club discussion and I am sure that there will not be anyone who wasn’t touched by this memorable novel.