Quite unusually, I’ve been reading a book that has no dead bodies contained within its pages.
(See my book review page here for the lists of crime fiction novels I usually read).
Biographies of interesting people, are also on my book shelf, but the title of this book, given to me by a work colleague, did not give me any clue as to the intensity of the story within.
Horse boy is the story of one family’s journey to heal their severely autistic son. Conventional western therapies were yielding little success and their son’s tantrums and neurological trauma appeared to be increasing, exponentially. Spurred on by an accidental discovery that Rowan had a special gift with horses, the family embarks on a monumental adventure that takes them to the outer regions of Mongolia.
Rowan and his parents are in search of a shaman to heal their son, who is nearly six, has few words, is not toilet trained, and has his parent’s life entirely revolving around preventing the next mega tantrum. One gets a glimpse into the horror of family life when one reads that he is only at peace and happy when they are riding the neighbours horse Betsy.
For it seems that Rowan is able to communicate with animals on a level that most humans can’t. Following a meeting with some shaman bushmen healers from Africa, an idea begins to formulate in Rowan’s father’s head of combining a shamanistic healing for Rowan, along with horses, and the only place to offer this combination was Inner Mongolia. And journeying to a distant country, with an autistic child would be a nightmare few parents would embark on.
This book is both painful and joyous. It will make your heart break and give you a feeling of being uplifted, of unfettered hope in the face of incredible odds. The first half of the book is absolutely riveting as the author, Rowan’s dad, eloquently and succinctly takes you through the torturous process of getting a diagnosis of Rowan’s condition, and the day-to-day life of adjusting to a child with extra special needs.
Against all autistic odds could be a fitting alternate title. Just when everyone appears to finally give up, there is a shaft of light! But you will have to read it to find out if it works!!
Some vivid description of the Mongolian culture and landscape will also thrill those interested in travel writing. The camera crew accompanying the family on their Mongolian adventure have produced a movie and here is a link: Horseboy movie
The Good: Narrative text, vivid imagery in landscape and cultural description
The Bad: Some areas felt a little repetitive, albeit truly indicative of life with an autistic child
The Ugly: Code Brown!