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Next Stop: A Memoir by Glen Finland

Next Stop: A Memoir

by Glen Finland

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If you have a family member who is autistic, then Glen Finland's memoir, NEXT STOP, is a must read. If you don't have an autistic relative, well, it's still a must read, because I'll bet you know someone who fits somewhere on that long sliding scale of autism, whether you knew it or not. And if you do, you're gonna recognize him/her as you read Finland's description of her "differently abled" son, David. Hell, if you appreciate good writing, then NEXT STOP is an abolulutely must read.

I've read a few books on Asperger's recently - Robison's LOOK ME IN THE EYE, and Tim Page's PARALLEL PLAY, both excellent - but compared to David Finland, those guys seem nearly normal. Because David's already rather acute autism was accompanied by what Finland called "a mean mix of ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Tourette's syndrome ... The tics include eye-blinking, head or shoulder jerking, facial grimacing, and, in David's case, snorting sounds often combined with an upper body twist, a hop, and a punch to his own mouth ..."

The twist that makes Finland's story different from those told by other parents of autistic children is that she begins in the year David turns 21, and details the year she spent riding the DC subway systems with her son, hoping that if he could learn the underground system, he could perhaps find a job and gain some measure of independence. Fortunately, David has a fascination with maps. Along the way she tells the story of David's life up to that point. But it's not just about David, it's about the whole family: her husband Bruce, and her two older (normal) sons and the toll David's afflictions had taken on the whole family. She is quite brutally candid and, I think, painfully honest about the tensions and resentments often caused, and yet she never loses her sense of humor. And perhaps that is what has saved this family - kept it intact.

There are no punches pulled in this story of the Finland family. It has not been easy; that much is obvious. But Finland's love for her damaged son is a fierce one and a constant one. Oh, she gets angry at him, but she always remembers - or her husband reminds her - that David's take on the world is radically different from that of normal people. All those missed clues, the obliviousness. There is no happy ending here. But there is faith, there is hope, and, most of all, there is that fierce, continuing love.

Finland says, "I never claimed to be a good mother, just barely good enough." Well, judging from this brutally, painfully honest story of a family, I would beg to differ. And not only is she a good mother, she's a damn fine writer. This is a book that is nearly impossible to put down. I recommend it highly. ( )
  TimBazzett | Apr 17, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 039915860X, Hardcover)

Next Stop is the universal story of how children grow up and parents learn to let go—no matter how difficult it may be for both of them.
The summer David Finland was twenty-one, he and his mother rode the Washington, D.C., metro trains. Every day. The goal was that if David could learn the train lines, maybe David could get a job. And then maybe he could move out on his own. And then maybe his parents’ marriage could get the jump-start it craved. Maybe. Next Stop is a candid portrait of a differently-abled young man poised at the entry to adulthood. It recounts the complex relationship between a child with autism and his family, as he steps out into the real world alone for the first time, and how his autism affects everyone who loves him.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:57 -0400)

Details how the author and her husband tried to help their twenty-one-year-old autistic son enter into adulthood by teaching him to ride commuter trains on his own in preparation for holding down a job.

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