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Friday, July 31, 2009

The Horse Boy

The Horse Boy: A Father's
Quest to Heal His Son

by Rupert Isaacson
audio book: 10.5 hours

*** About the Book ***

When Rupert and Kristen's son, Rowan, is diagnosed with autism, their world begins to crumble. Rowan's language skills stall, he has violent tantrums, and he doesn't seem to connect with the people around him. What he DOES connect with is are horses. When Rowan and his dad ride together, Rowan's little body relaxes and he begins to speak more and more.

Traditional autism therapies aren't working for Rowan and Rupert and Kristen are at their wits end. That's when Rupert comes up with his "crazy idea": a trip to outer Mongolia, to a culture built upon horses. Rupert has a deep respect for shamanism due to his friendship with several African shamans; he is convinced that with the help of horses and the Mongolian shamans, Rowan's life can improve.

What happens in Mongolia is both heartbreaking and wonderful, and you simply have to read to find out all about it.

*** Why I Read It ***

A while back I read a review of this book over at Stuff As Dreams Are Made On and I found it fascinating. Chris said that this was one of his favorite books this year. I knew I didn't have time to read it at the moment but I was really intrigued. So when I found it on audio at my library I snatched it up right away.

*** My Thoughts ***

This book hit me really hard, in a way I was not expecting. As I listened to Rupert talk about Kristen's pregnancy and Rowan's birth I was struck by the fact that Rowan is exactly one month older than Kiddo. Woah. This could have been MY life. From that point on, whenever Rowan's age was mentioned my mind went back immediately to thoughts of Kiddo at that same age. I would think, "While we were enjoying X, they were dealing with Y." It was a very strange and moving experience. Kiddo came in while I was listening to the first part of the book and asked me about it. I explained as simply as I could about autism and Rowan's connection with horses. His response was "That is really interesting - really sad, but really interesting."

Back to the book itself ...

This was an amazing book. What I know about autism is ... not much, really. I also don't particularly identify with belief in shamanism or similar religions. But that didn't matter at all - I still really enjoyed listening to this book.

I admire Rupert and Kristen for their conviction to keep trying, to be open minded about things that might help Rowan. They didn't simply do what the doctors said - they tried to think outside the box, and they got results.

Not only is their story interesting and inspiring, it is well written as well. Rupert was (is?) a travel writer so he is very skilled at bringing the various places they travel to life on the page.

*** About the Narrator ***

This book was narrated by the author. IF the author has a good speaking voice, I prefer that he/she narrates - it brings me more fully into the book. And in this case the author was the perfect narrator. Hearing him describe the crises and triumphs their family experienced was very moving. I highly recommend this audio book.

*** The Movie ***

Documentary filmmakers (and friends of the Isaacson family) accompanied them on the Mongolia trip and filmed much of their experiences. Some of the funnier moments in the books revolved around these guys and their loads of camera equipment.

The footage they took has been make into a film which is playing in select cities this Fall. Check the schedule here to see if your town is on the list. I'm glad to see that it is playing in Baltimore - you can bet I'll be there to see it!

Here's a trailer for it. Just to let you know, after reading this book seeing the video brings tears to my eyes.

*** Other Reviews ***

Be sure to check out these other reviews. And if you've read this book please let me know.


bermudaonion said...

I listened to the audio of this too and loved it. I don't think anyone else could have read it as well as the author because no one else knows Rupert as well. I felt Rupert's and Kristen's frustration and I fell in love with the people of Mongolia as I listened.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

bermudaonion - Yes, that's exactly why I liked it so much. It was sort of like listening to a friend tell you how his life was falling apart - you're feeling all the emotions right there along with him. And the joys and triumphs too.

Dreamybee said...

This sounds amazing, and, holy smokes! It's actually coming to HI!

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Dreamybee - YEAH!

chrisa511 said...

I'm so glad that you loved it as much as I did Heather :D I agree with you totally...when I saw the trailer for the movie, it brought tears to my eyes. I felt like I was part of their family by the end and I can't wait to see the movie.

Lenore Appelhans said...

My best friend's daughter is autistic. I've recommended this to her.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Chris - Yes, that's it exactly - I felt like I really KNEW them by the end. Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention!

Lenore - That's wonderful. I'd love to know her reaction to it.

Anonymous said...

Wow...amazing. My youngest son was diagnosed with autism at age 2. Now, he is in first grade at a public school and is doing well.
I came to this site to research tantrums and anger behavior since that seems to be something that has come on in his life recently...seeing the trailer made me cry and realize that I need to perhaps involve him more in some way that speaks to him.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Anonymous - Thank you so much for commenting. I'm very glad that you found the video inspiring. I can only imagine your situation and I truly hope that you find something that helps your son.

Dreamybee said...

I saw this when it was here a couple weeks ago-missed the first 15 minutes or so, but it was pretty good, not great, but OK. I think the book might be better. I have to say, I was absolutely exhausted after watching them deal with their son for an hour or two. I don't know how parents of autistic children do it-you need the patience of a saint.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Dreamybee - the book WAS very good and I highly recommend it - exhausted is exactly the right word too

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