SKYCHILD by Suzanne Morris


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A hard-working, if too simplistic, approach to a complex situation: how the terror-pitted mind of an autistic child sees--and affects--the surrounding world of unhappy adults. Forrest Maguire and wife Monica are predictably devastated by the knowledge that their small son Ian is autistic. But while cold Forrest, himself once an unloved child, can't accept failure, Monica is tortured by guilt: was Ian's condition caused by the raging fever which Monica neglected during pregnancy (because she was absorbed in her painting career)? So it is Monica--miserable in marriage, questioning ""roles""--who seeks out specialists, schools, and testing centers, hoping Ian (mute, unresponsive, often violent) will break through his shell of isolation. But, as Morris makes clear through sections written from Ian's viewpoint, the child's four-year-old universe has been all too firmly shaped by the fever and birth trauma: he is driven by the impulse to return to the warm, secure womb; he sees the sun and moon in the sky as his real home, ""balls"" which seem tantalizingly near; his mind burrows through hypotheses, evolving patterns, and ""tests"" for safety, holding to the sky with his ever-present mirror. Still, when Monica begins traveling on weekends to an old family vacation spot on Galveston Bay, Ian responds there to the patient attention of Buzz Wellman--son of old family friends. And Monica responds too, in an affair with sympathetically loving Buzz (whose frail wife Peggy gives birth to baby Bert). Then, however, a terrible act by Ian results in the baby's death: everyone is shaken into honest confrontations. And finally Monica, reunited with her mother (whom she has scorned for years) and divorced, lives for her art and for Ian, who still might one day reach out. Weakened by pale characterizations and by Morris' over-elaborate, often-unconvincing evocation of the autistic mind, this is nonetheless an earnest and respectable treatment of a difficult subject. . . and quite a departure for the light-entertainment author of Galveston and Keeping Secrets.

Pub Date: Aug. 7th, 1981
ISBN: 0595093752
Publisher: Doubleday