A deeply felt, movingly written account of raising an autistic son.
As a best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, Suskind has earned his renown with deeply reported, big-picture stories of domestic policies (Confidence Men, 2011) and international affairs (The Way of the World, 2008). His latest is more tightly focused and intimate in tone, as it deals with two decades of struggles and triumphs of a family trying to do whatever is best for their younger son, Owen, who has somehow been able to make emotional connections through Disney movies that so many with autism never can. The investigative reporter in Suskind might be a little suspicious of a book that depends so heavily on Disney products, and includes visits with its actors and animators and is published through a Disney imprint, even as he insists that Disney “agreed to exert no influence whatsoever over the content of this book.” It details the experience of having a seemingly normal toddler who “vanished” into what was subsequently diagnosed as autism. Early on, they figure, “[i]t’s just a matter of reaching him, of figuring out what caused this storm to envelop him, so we can clear away the clouds and let the light back in.” Nothing was that simple, of course, as frustration at the inadequacies of educational options and conflicting therapeutic strategies, at expenses that run toward $100,000 per year, set in. Disney proved to be the way in, as Owen deeply identified with the sidekicks and misfits of the videos he watched repeatedly, memorized whole scripts and began drawing; he now wants to become an animator. Owen’s obsession has aided his emotional and intellectual development, as he made friends, graduated from high school and enjoyed his first kiss as much as the next romantic teenager. The Disney effect may be distinctive to this experience, but the family dynamic should resonate with a much wider readership.
A master journalistic storyteller tells his family’s own story.