|Image Credit: Dogwise|
Why was it sitting there so long, you might ask? I don't know. I picked it up the first time, read a few pages, it didn't grab my attention, and it went back to the bookshelf where it lay for more than a year on the TBR shelf. Then, out of some misguided sense of loyalty, I made the fatal mistake of picking it up again. This time, I really didn't want to abandon it. So I forced myself. It took me months, I read other books in the meantime, my sister even borrowed it for a while, but she returned it in a hurry, and I was back to it again. A Friend Like Henry is the 'remarkable true story of an autistic boy and the dog that unlocked his world.' And indeed, it is remarkable. I have not interacted with autistic children or adults although there have been a few in my extended family, and I think I qualify for every spectrum of human insanity there can be. Right, that's a joke on myself - I do not intend to dumb down the extreme distress that autism can cause to both parents, caregivers and the child itself.
Nuala chronicles in great detail just how difficult it was to even obtain a diagnosis of autism for her son, and her struggles in dealing with his tantrums and obsessions. As parents, they do a tremendous job. Thumbs up, hats off, and I have to bow to the sheer love she and Jamie shower on Dale. As a writer, I have to say, sorry. The book is not unreadable, but it just dragged on. It was like a PhD thesis on the struggles of autism, it read very well, but I could never get into the book.
I am a bit confused as I write this because I have the feeling I should like this book. But I just didn't. It's an important book nevertheless for parents with autistic children, or for that matter parents with children whose conception of the world is different from most. It doesn't make them 'retarded' or whatever fancy label we like to stick on people. Hah. I can use retarded for people who show different faces to you, and pretend that both is true, I can call retards as those who abuse your trust, retards who forget gratitude just because its too inconvenient to keep you in their life, retards are those who kill, maim and hurt humans or animals, retards are all those to me.
So what about the book? Umm, don't know really. It was too detailed, and I wish she gave the dog, Henry, a little more importance. She describes him only as a tool to help Dale emerge from his 'locked world', and only towards the end wakes up and gives him his individual status when he is about to die. Sigh. I think aptly it should be called 'A Boy Called Dale,' and that would make sense.
Verdict : Maybe it's just me, not the best read, but well, important.