Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book Review - HORSE BOY - Rupert Isaacson

 Quite unusually, I have this week been reading a book that has no dead bodies contained within its pages. I do sometimes read biographies of interesting people, but this book was given to me by a work  colleague and its title certainly does not indicate the intensity of the true story within its pages.
Horse boy is the story of a family's journey to heal their severely autistic son. Conventional western therapies were yielding little progress and their son's tantrums and neurological trauma appeared to be increasing.  Spurred on by the accidental discovery that Rowan had a special gift with animals, in particular horses, the family embark on a monumental adventure that takes them to the outer regions of Mongolia. 

Rowan, and his parents are in search of a shaman to heal their son, who is nearly six, has few words, is not toilet trained, and their lives revolve around preventing the next mega tantrum. Yet he is at peach and happy and a glimpse into his world is possible when he and his Dad are riding the neighbours horse Betsy, for Rowan seems to be able to communicate with animals on a level that most humans can't.  Rupert meets some shaman bushmen healers from Africa and an idea begins to formulate in his head of combining a shamanistic healing for Rowan, along with horses, and the only place to offer this combination was Mongolia.

This book is both painful and joyous. It will make your heart break and also give you a feeling of being uplifted, of hope in the face of incredible odds. The first half of the book is riveting as the author, Rowan's dad, eloquently and succintly takes you through the process of diagnosis of Rowan's condition,  and the day to day lives adjusting to a child with extra special needs. Some vivid description of the Mongolian culture and landscape will also thrill those interested in travel writing. An interesting moment in the final pages of the book comes when a disgruntled tourist finds Rowans' behaviour annoying, and Rupert challenges his thinking in a way that has my endless admiration in terms of advocacy for disabled persons/persons with special needs.

Against all autistic odds could be a fitting alternate title. Just when everyone appears to finally give up, there is a shaft of light! But you will have to read it to find out if it works!! 

The camera crew accompanying the family on their Mongolian adventure have produced a movie and here is a link:
Horseboy movie

Real healing and progress for autism, a condition that is considered incurable - that is surely something parents would ponder about.

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