Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Anti-Romantic Child - Book Review

The Anti-Romantic Child, A Memoir of Unexpected Joy, by Priscilla Gilman, is one of those books that will pull at the heart strings of any parent.  Gilman opens the book with thoughts on her idealization of childhood - creative play, art, adventures.  She had longed for a child of her own for years, and when she found herself with a new baby reality struck.  The motherhood that she had envisioned, somewhat through her devoted readings of Wordsworth, was far from what she experienced.  She felt alienated from her child, and didn't feel as though she could interpret his cries.

As her son grows, it becomes clear that he is incredibly precocious.  By 14 months, he knows all of his letters (keep in mind, this is when most kids are just start to say Mom or Dad).  At 18 months he can tell time digitally, and by 2 1/2 he is reading and quite obsessed with letters and numbers.  But Gilman starts to have concerns for Benj in spite of his brilliance.  He isn't interested in toys, is regimented and fastidious, and at the age of 2 1/2 is still only eating baby food.  Eventually, after touring a preschool and seeing adament differences among his peers, Gilman begans her own research.  She discovers that Benj has hyperlexia which is characterized by a precocious ability to read words but a difficulty in understanding verbal language and abnormal social skills.  In the DSM, it is a diagnosis that falls under Autism Spectrum Disorders.  While Benj is never formally assessed for a specific diagnosis, his behaviors seem to fall closest to the characteristics common to Asperger's.

What unfolds in the memoir is Gilman's struggle to help Benj in his weak areas, while appreciating his strengths, all intermingled with her love and appreciation of the writings by Wordsworth.  Through his verse, she seeks to understand herself as a parent and strives to accomodate and accept her child. 

I think this book is quite validating for mothers who have struggled in their parenting, and particularly for moms of children with special needs.  Any parent who has gone through the quest for evaluations and services for a child will read Gilman's articulations and think, "yes, here is someone who gets me, who knows what I am going through".  You'll be impressed with Gilman's devotion to her family and to jumping through whatever hoops necessary to ease the challenges her son faces on a daily basis.  It's a beautifully written book, and I enjoyed the excerpts from Wordsworth so much that I found myself in the wee hours of the morning flipping through my old college lit textbook.  Even if you don't have a child with special needs, you'll enjoy the humanity of motherhood expressed in this book, and identify with the desire to be the best parent you can be.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours for review purposes.  The opinions expressed above are my own.  I loved this book, and on my personal Shelfari page I rated it 5 out of 5 stars. 

18 comments:

Jill said...

It sounds like a "must read."

My Journey With Candida said...

Sounds like a great book! I love it when I can find time to read.

andy said...

Bet its a great book! ! Have a great day

Betty Roan said...

Enjoyed reading the review. I think I will get this book for my daughter who has an autistic son and struggles sometimes. Sounds like the kind of book she would like to read.

Barbara said...

This book sounds great. I will have to add it to my list.

JDaniel4's Mom said...

This sounds really wonderful!

The Incredible Woody said...

Sounds like a wonderful book! I have a friend with a severely disabled child and I know her struggles. I think this might be a perfect purchase for her.

Andrea (ace1028) said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it! I hope to get into it and really read it sometime soon. :)

Debbie said...

it sounds like a book every mom sould read!!

Valerie said...

I'm glad books like this are out there-I think they can help these parents know that they aren't the only parents out there with special needs kids. I remember when I worked in a preschool years ago there was a severely autistic boy, and his parents felt like they were alone in their struggle to understand and raise their son. I often wonder about them. They could have used the encouragement in a book like this. Thanks for the review Lisa!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I bet the perspective offered in this book would be valuable for all kinds of parents.

Sally said...

The book sounds interesting. It never hurts to learn another person's perspective on parenting.

Tina Fariss Barbour said...

A very well-written review, Lisa. It makes me want to read the book. I don't have children, but it sounds like anyone who has tried to make sense out of what life gives them would enjoy it.

Ginny said...

This looks very interesting. Phil works with lots of Asperger's diagnosed people. It is very mysterious and I think just a recent diagnosis, it was not recognized years ago.

Nancy said...

Sounds like an interestng read... :)

trish said...

My son is 1 year old, and I think this book sounds like an amazing testament to motherhood, and something most women could probably relate to, whether we have a special needs child or not.

So glad you loved the book! Thanks for being on the tour!

Chatty Crone said...

Yes indeed and I think it might be a great book to invest in - thanks Lisa. Love, sandie

Lin said...

I'd love to read this book. My son could tell time and calculate time zones at 3. While it was cool at first, he soon grew frustrated if all the clocks in the house were not exactly the same time. He could read at that age and was obsessed with letters and numbers too. I get what she went through--he was very smart, but socially awkward. My son is in college now and still has some long lasting hurt from what he went through with other kids. NOT fun.