Any story of a child's death is bound to be affecting, but Ben Oyler's case was significant in its tragedy--the...



Any story of a child's death is bound to be affecting, but Ben Oyler's case was significant in its tragedy--the eight-year-old boy, a hemophiliac, was among the earliest diagnosed young victims of AIDS. Oyler's mother and her two collaborators (Becklund: L.A. Times reporter; Polson: Not My Kid, 1984) give us ample evidence that Ben was both special and wonderfully normal. A boy who wanted to play football, joins Scouts, and go to school, he became noticeably stronger in spirit as illness ravaged his body. It was Ben who initiated conversations about death with his grieving parents, and it was Ben who led them to acceptance. There's an inspirational message here--the Oylers are devout Mormons and their faith was important in sustaining them through their ordeal. But Chris Oyler never pretends that it shielded them from the physical consequences of AIDS. Ben's weight dropped to 45 pounds. For a year he endured constant vomiting and diarrhea. In the last weeks of his life, seizures wracked his frail body. Reading Ben's story can leave no question about the devastating effect of this disease, but there are other questions left unanswered here. Ben was the first patient to be diagnosed with AIDS at Stanford's Childrens Hospital, but we get no sense of the stir this might have engendered and only scanty information about treatments that were tried. Oyler is equally offhand in her explanations of the hemophilia that afflicted two other Oyler sons as well as Ben. Finally, and importantly, the issue of AIDS phobia surfaces several times, but is never fully explored. But if Ben Oyler's story is not quite complete, there's still much to be learned from his example. Where AIDS is concerned, we've only just begun the books, but, sadly, we already know the endings.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1988


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1988