Friday, July 17, 2015

Best Boy; Eli Gottlieb

Best Boy; Eli Gottlieb
W.W. Norton - 2015

The "Best Boy" in this novel is Todd Aaron who is autistic.  For the last 40 years he has made his home at the Payton Living Center for individuals on the autism spectrum.  Todd was just 11 years old when his mother dropped him off there telling him to be, "the best boy ever."  Todd always thought he'd be going home, but that never happened.  His mother has since passed away and he has infrequent phone calls from his brother and even less frequent visits from him since he lives 700 miles away.

Now called the "old fox" since he's been at Payton the longest. Todd's life is best when routines are followed. He is obsessed with reading the encyclopedia, follows rules well and has never been a problem for the staff there. He works around the facility as well, Except for a disruptive roommate who had a way of setting him off, a one-eyed female who is interested in Todd and a new caretaker called Mike the Apron, who Todd takes an instant dislike to his life at Payton has been pretty good. 

Through this story readers get a good picture of what life is like for an adult with autism, and how sights, sounds and change of most any kind can really set the individual off.  The story is told in the first person voice of Todd which took some getting used to, especially when his mind and emotions were racing or jumbled. At times Todd seemed like a sympathetic character, but at other times he seemed stereotypical.  The story jumps around a bit from Todd's early years at home with his mother, an abusive father and vindictive younger brother and then his time living with other individuals with autism.

I liked this book well enough but the writing style made me read this one a few chapters at a time over a period of a few weeks.  I think this novel will  have the greatest appeal to readers interested in stories about individuals with autism, 

3.5/5 stars
(review copy)

22 comments:

  1. I've been wondering about this book. I recently read a Jodi Picoult book that included a young man with Asperger's. It was a typical Picoult story and told in her usual manner, but I was interested in reading about families that live with this challenge.

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    1. We are a family that lives with this challenge, even though my child is an adult now. It will always be a challenge until my last day, because you never stop parenting a child.

      I didn't read that Picoult book on purpose; I was afraid to see the lifestyle trivialized and then her typical twist ending. But I think other "parents-of" can handle fiction stories about this topic better. I'm ultra-sensitive. Look up the poem Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley, something someone gave me when we received the diagnosis. Thanks, Kay, for listening.
      Sorry, Diane for hijacking this thread :)

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    2. I don't think she trivialized it. The character is the main protagonist. However, you might have a different reaction. My review will be up in a couple of weeks. You could take a look then. And I'll check out that poem. :-)

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    3. Kay, I'm not sure "trivialized" is the point I was trying to make. I do think the protagonist behaviors at times seemed too general or "stero typical". I still thought it was a decent story -- just not perfect.

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  2. My daughter in law's sister has two children with Asperger's and it is a challenge! I like the title of this book as I've always called my little grandson my best boy and he loves it!

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    1. It was good, but just not perfect IMO. I can only imagine the challenges of raising a child with autism.

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  3. Hmmm...I've got this one on tap for August and I'm tempering my expectations now that it seemed just so-so for you :( I am interested in characters with autism, though, so maybe there's hope?

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    1. I hope you do read it Sarah as Kay clearly enjoyed it more than me.

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  4. I do like stories about people who are different from me so this appeals to me but I can see where the writing style would be somewhat off putting. Still, I think I might give it a try.

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    1. This is one that readers might have different opinions on.

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  5. I agree, different is good sometimes.

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  6. I'm thinking about adding this to my growing list.

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    1. I hope u do try it Vicki, I'll be curious to see what you think.

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  7. Hi Diane, first of all I wanted to say what a lovely header photo you have. Love all the different colored rocking chairs. As for this book, it sounds very interesting. Not sure if I will read it but I know a couple of friends who might. Thanks for the review and have a great weekend :)

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  8. Having an adult child living with Aspergers, I tend to shy away from these sort of books. They make me incredibly melancholy, and when (they always do) put in stereotypical cliches, it rubs me the wrong way. If I didn't have this situation, honestly, I would probably read it out of curiosity.

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    1. Oh Rita I wasn't aware of this. I can only imagine that challenges you have faced and still do.

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  9. Thanks for the review, I may skip reading this book. My TBR stacks are high.

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  10. Thanks for your review Diane. A friend sent me this book and I plan on reading it, but like Rita am sensitive to the stereotypes that authors rely on to make autistic characters tick. When a parent gets a diagnosis for their child it is the lack of independence that this book is set in that scares the most. It will be an interesting read for me, for sure.

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    1. Stacy, I hope it turns out to be a positive reading experience for you, as I can imagine the caution I would take reading much of what is out there if I were you. Remember -- this is fiction!

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