A pastor and a young mother connect over their love for a child with autism in this novel.
Hana is a parent trying to start a new life. But for the moment, she has ended up in the basement at her sister Kara’s house in a small town in Oklahoma. “Kara’s was a prettily packaged life, the kind with ribbons and a bow,” Kaufman (The Story People, 2016) writes of the two sisters. “Hana’s was a banged and dented UPS box left on the wrong doorstep.” Indeed, Kara has a seemingly perfect spouse and children while Hana has had to flee Cincinnati to escape her abusive ex-husband, Zeke, and struggles with her autistic son, Isaac. His behavior ranges from adorable (insisting on bringing his turtle, Rocky, everywhere) to disturbing (hitting himself or pulling out his own hair). After being humiliated during a service at Hope Church by one of Isaac’s tantrums, Hana thinks she’s at her breaking point. But suddenly, the small community lives up to its church’s name. Kara’s pastor, Matt Schofield, gladly lets Isaac examine his beard and tell him all about turtles. For Matt, Isaac is the chance to break out of his routine and make up for something terrible that happened to a similar little boy long ago, before autism was commonly understood. And for Hana, Matt might mean the chance for a normal life. Throughout this sweet story, Kaufman does an excellent job of portraying Hana’s frustrations and unrelenting love for Isaac. Her twinges of irritation when people try to explain away Isaac’s problem, even in helpful and loving ways, perfectly capture this mother’s efforts to treat her son like any other while also dealing with the realities of autism. These well-constructed tensions make it all the more satisfying when Matt finally arrives and connects with Isaac on his terms. The book stumbles a bit toward its conclusion, bringing Zeke back as an unnecessary—and far too creepy—last-minute villain, but readers should ultimately find the journey of Hana and her very special Isaac delightful.
A charming and well-crafted tale of family, compassion, and acceptance.