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The chronicle of a mother’s increasingly desperate fight to preserve her son’s sanity.

Only a year after his difficult birth, Chase was diagnosed with global developmental delay. Davenport, the executive director of the University of North Carolina’s center for undergraduate excellence, writes movingly of her search for a diagnosis and cure. Newly married to an up-and-coming local rock star and struggling to become a novelist, her life had seemed happily on track. But following the diagnosis of global developmental delay, Chase was also diagnosed with severe ADHD and eventually autism. Two years later, he had his first grand mal seizure. Davenport’s marriage ended when her husband, whose rock band had dissolved, began to drink heavily and physically abuse Chase. (Years later she realized that even before this, her husband had showed signs of “the fluttering wing of paranoia.”) By age 15, Chase was in the grips of severe paranoia, convinced that he was being stalked by nailers, men who “nail you to the chair and kill you.” Even though he was highly medicated for epilepsy and psychosis, he was losing his fragile contact with reality and becoming so difficult to manage—he often threatened suicide—that he was hospitalized in a short-term residential-treatment facility. With the increasing doses of anti-psychotics, his condition continued to deteriorate. When he became violent and no longer recognized Davenport, she was informed that his prognosis was poor, and she needed to transfer him. After a harrowing search—and denial of further insurance coverage—she was forced to place him in a state mental hospital where he was drugged to the point of stupor. Finally, Chase was admitted to a small facility for young men with serious developmental disabilities; he slowly tapered off drugs and his condition steadily improved. Still, the author clearly understands that the battle is far from over. “I stopped seeing Chase as a child I just had to get back on track and saw him as he was,” she writes, “tall and painfully thin and unable to care for himself, unable to communicate, beset with the unseen, the unknown, the unnamable, but arrived into himself completely, as if all of this had been hardwired, preordained from the start.”

A gripping memoir of motherly love and absolute devotion.

Pub Date: March 30th, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-56512-611-4
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2009