Sunday, March 3, 2013

Living With Autism

Random House
New York, New York

"From the beginning, I knew that I wanted to approach autism differently."     ~~Kristine Barnett

If you believe, as I do that the Universe will present the right book at just the right moment you will understand my appreciation for Kristine Barnett's The Spark.  Although my own family has been affected by an autism diagnoses (nearly six years ago) I continued to struggle with what the future holds and to understand the actions of those confronted with the daily task of meeting his needs. I had many questions, and few answers.

Dr. Thomas R. Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health* offered the following: "People with autism are likely to be viewed differently by pediatricians, child neurologists, child psychiatrists, developmental psychologists, behavior therapists, special education experts, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, and any of the other range of providers. Like the blind men and the elephant, different providers can offer completely different perspectives on the problem and the treatment. ..."

No wonder I was confused. Even the experts don't agree. The scarce information I received was coming second, even third hand. The Spark provided many answers and ultimately a great deal of hope. Kristine Barnett easily won my admiration.

This is an inspiring and intimate memoir of a mother determined to save her child. She made the life-changing decision to trust herself and her son and follow her true heart.  Against the advice of her husband and the developmental professionals treating their son Ms Barnett chose to follow her own intuition. Believing that all children will outperform our expectations if we can find a way to feed his or her passion she got to work. Using what she calls her "mother gut" she helped Jacob find his real, authentic self... his spark.  It is a story of what to do when typical therapy isn't working.

Despite her own challenges, and there were many, Ms. Barnett saw only possibilities. This is the story of a mother's unselfish love for her son and so much more.

Kristine Barnett lives in Indiana with her husband, Michael, and their children. In 1996 she founded Acorn Hill Academy, a daycare serving local families. She and Michael currently run a charitable community center for autistic and special-needs children and their families called Jacob's Place. Find out more here:

*Thomas R. Insel, M.D., is Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the component of the National Institutes of Health charged with generating the knowledge needed to understand, treat, and prevent mental disorders. His tenure at NIMH has been distinguished by groundbreaking findings in the areas of practical clinical trials, autism research, and the role of genetics in mental illnesses.

Note: This book was provided by the publisher, Random House, for review and for that I am grateful. This is a well-written book that will be well-received. The Spark will be available April 2013. 

Note: This review has been posted on

Lisa Samson's Newest Novel

The Sky Beneath My Feet tells the curious story of stuck in the 80s Beth, former Quaker, current self-absorbed mother to two teenage sons, married to St. Rick who has retreated to the couple's backyard hideaway. Written in first-person, the reader is treated to Beth's misguided view of the world and those closest to her. (Surely I am not the only reader who wonders why Beth doesn't march across the yard and demand answers.) Like a lot of women  (and men) she is oblivious, projecting, and quick to blame others for her unhappiness (a recognizable passive/aggressive personality type). But she also comes across as sad, conflicted, familiar. Who is to blame for her reality? Her actions (and non-actions) will launch many a book club discussion.

I've long been a fan of Ms Samson's writing. She draws her characters with grace and determination. Her stories open thoughtfully and move swiftly. Not afraid to tackle life's uncomfortable themes I consider her a "writers writer" and occasionally used her novels in the classroom. Aspiring novelists pay attention, Ms Samson is a gifted storyteller.

Tea and Empathy: Lisa Samson. Publisher Weekly Update

The Sky Beneath My Feet was provided by the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for review. The words are my own.

Note: This review has been posted on