Inside Asperger’s: One Man’s Tale
LOOK ME IN THE EYE
by John Elder Robison |
REVIEWED BY MICHELLE GREEN
As a boy in Amherst, Mass., the author was pegged as a freak: Clumsy and withdrawn, he fidgeted, walked like a robot and almost never smiled. As he puts it in this incisive memoir, “‘Sociopath’ and ‘psycho’ were two of the most common field diagnoses for my look and expression.” In some ways, it’s astonishing that Robison’s eccentricities—diagnosed in adulthood as Asperger’s syndrome—drew notice in his fractured family, immortalized by brother Augusten Burroughs in 2002’s Running with Scissors. In his own story, Robison recalls an alcoholic father and a mother racked by delusions. Proficient with electronics, Robison left home at 15, becoming part of the ’80s rock scene, designing flaming guitars for KISS and eventually founding a lucrative vintage-car-repair business. But his biggest success, writes Robison—now married and a father—has been in using Asperger’s traits like logic and hyperfocus to train himself socially. “I have observed that a drawled ‘Wow!’ accompanied by a smile can be an acceptable response to almost anything,” he confides. Deeply felt and often darkly funny, Look Me in the Eye is a delight.
Brother, I’m Dying
by Edwidge Danticat |
REVIEWED BY SUE CORBETT
This powerful memoir begins in 2004, on the day the Haitian novelist learned she was pregnant and that her beloved father, Mira, a Brooklyn cab driver, had end-stage pulmonary fibrosis. Taking measure of his life, she expands the story to include her Uncle Joseph, a charismatic minister who cared for her in Port-au-Prince while her parents established themselves in the U.S. Danticat’s novels have won acclaim for bringing Haiti’s rich, tortured history to light; she infuses this tender portrait of the two men she called father with details of the oppression, poverty and violence that forced them, and thousands of others, from their island. Danticat keeps her outrage below boil so her reportage speaks for itself. The result is a testament to family bonds so strong they can survive separation, distance, even death.
by Valerie Martin |
REVIEWED BY DANIELLE TRUSSONI
Martin’s twelfth book is a dark, enchanting novel that follows the middle-class Dale family as it falls prey to foreign intrusion. Chloe Dale and her husband, Brendan, are thrown out of orbit when their son gets his college girlfriend, a Croatian immigrant, pregnant. After marrying, the young couple become entwined in a war-torn family tragedy that pulls them further and further away from the bubble of insular post-9/11 America. Moving gracefully between New York, Louisiana and Trieste, Italy, Martin weaves multiple settings and story lines together with the grace and beauty of a master. She has created a must-read tale: a brilliant and seductive story about the ways that history, passion and war encroach upon even the most protected of American lives.
by Graham Swift |
REVIEWED BY FRANCINE PROSE
Swift’s brief, concentrated novel takes place on a single night and entirely in the mind of Paula Hook—who is 50, happily married and the mother of 16-year-old twins. In the morning, Paula and her beloved scientist-editor husband, Mike, will tell the twins a family secret that will change the way they think about themselves and their parents. As Paula prepares for this challenging occasion, her thoughts drift back to her university days, when she and Mike first met, and then on to recollections throughout their lives—childhood, the deaths of loved ones, passion, infidelity, parenthood, professional success and all the complexities of a long marriage. A graceful writer, Swift is also an astute observer of these seemingly ordinary but all-important moments as well as a master at creating characters who seem to us as complicated, contradictory and utterly recognizable as people we know. Indeed, he hardly needs the “hook” of the major revelation to keep us reading. As it turns out, Paula’s secret is more predictable—and offers considerably less in the way of a payoff—than the quieter sections of this subtle and resonant book.