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 Unfortunately, Gabe’s problems turn out to be much deeper than just having colic; at around 18 months, he becomes withdrawn, unwilling (or unable) to speak and make eye contact, and overly fascinated with trains—classic signs of autism.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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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