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 Unfortunately, Gabe’s problems turn out to be much deeper than just having colic; at around 18 months, he becomes withdrawn, unwilling (or unable) to speak and make eye contact, and overly fascinated with trains—classic signs of autism.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.