An advance reader copy was provided free of charge by Liveright Publishing through edelweiss in exchange for my honest opinion.
This story opens on a heartbreaking note as Todd Aaron, an autistic man now in his 50s, describes arriving at his first assisted-living facility when he was only 11 years old. He remembers his mother tearfully telling him he would love it there and promises that she and his father would visit often. She tries to put Todd in a good mood with banter that is special between the two of them. Before she surprises him by driving away without him, he’s told he should always remember who really loves him and she asks him to always be a Best Boy.
This very special story will have you thinking about your interact with the developmentally disabled and the way you are viewed by autistic children and adults. But more amazing is the way they and in this story, Todd, interpret the world and see you. You will be shocked by the abuse and ease with which family and strangers take advantage of the innocent. It will come as a surprise that an autistic man incapable of expressing himself verbally is capable of reading and digesting the Encyclopedia Britannica. You will be overwhelmed by the frustration and yearning he feels as he searches to identify why he is seen differently from the “world out there”. It will be impossible not to feel sympathy and love for this man. You will be lost with him in his loneliness and search for the meaning of love and home.
Behind his quiet, often silent, visage runs a mind that sees things, feels emotions, and is capable of thinking independently. He is just unable to express himself to others in their language code.
In the scene where he tries to tell his brother, Nate, about a new counselor that scares him he thinks.
“I wanted to tell him all about the bad thing that Mike the Apron was going to bring into my life and that I knew it, just knew it. I wanted to tell him that his face gave off the same sour hot feeling as the face of our father and that he was a creeping coyote-person who was going to hurt the lamb of Greta Deane and sooner or later do something terrible to me. But I didn’t know how to say that…”.
The story, in my opinion, was very dark and so very sad. With the exception of his mother, and one caring staff member, Todd was always the victim of abuse of some kind. It was hard to believe at times that the world could be so continuously cruel. I was disappointed that those who persecuted Todd the most didn’t get the justice they deserved. I personally wanted to flog his brother in the end.
Overall and despite the tension and sadness, I felt compelled to read as fast as I could always hoping and praying that Todd would find the peace and love he so richly deserved.