A heartwarming, hopeful tale about coping with autism.

The Record Player

A loving married couple must navigate the stresses and difficulties of raising an autistic child.

This debut novel tells the story of Beth and John MacFarlane, who meet and fall in love while in the same college music class. Beth, a pianist, and John, an aspiring engineer, continue to share a deep love of music throughout their married life, especially for Fauré’s Requiem, the piece that brought them together in class. The two even name their firstborn son Gabriel, after the composer, and Beth is amazed to discover that listening to the music is the only thing that calms her colicky son. Unfortunately, Gabe’s problems turn out to be much deeper than just having colic; at around 18 months, he becomes withdrawn, unwilling (or unable) to speak and make eye contact, and overly fascinated with trains—classic signs of autism. After receiving a diagnosis, the devastated parents begin the arduous and painful journey of trying to help Gabe. From behavioral training to different diets, the two draw on the many wells of support and resources around them to carve out a meaningful life for their son. Jepson (Changing the Course of Autism, 2007), who dedicates the novel to his two autistic sons, is a doctor active in autism research, and he clearly knows his subject. From the details of the behavioral therapy Gabe receives to the financial stresses of caring for a special needs child, Jepson gets the minutiae right. But, more remarkably, he also nails the emotional turmoil of living with the condition and the toll it takes on John and Beth’s marriage and their vision for their future. Some of the dialogue feels a little stilted; it is hard to imagine, in this century, a physician like the story’s Dr. Morrison, who advises, “I would recommend that you have more children and forget about this one.” In a world where celebrities from Temple Grandin to Jenny McCarthy invoke autism on a public stage, having characters say, “Like Rain Man?,” when they hear about Gabe’s condition feels woefully out of touch. But the heart and the emotional truth of this book, in the end, come through emphatically.

A heartwarming, hopeful tale about coping with autism.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5234-4876-0

Page Count: 278

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2016

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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