Although I’m not usually one to harp on a book’s cover (insert obligatory joke about judging a book by its cover), this one definitely caught my eye. The tortured soul on the front cover of this book made me pause and wonder what would cause such pain. I knew the book was about Autism, but I know that the spectrum of this disorder is so varied that I really had no idea what I was in for. So, with so many looming questions, I decided to get right to it and dive in to the book!
Ferrante tells the story of Christina Borysowki, a woman from the Midwest who gives birth to a daughter with autism spectrum disorder in the early 1990’s. Originally, Christina is overjoyed at her daughter’s birth and feels an incredible bond with her daughter, who has beautiful blue eyes and a bubbly disposition. Over time, however, things begin to change. Her daughter, optimistically named Hope, begins to become withdrawn. She does not respond to her name, or any normal stimulus that children her age react to. Her now gray eyes seem to have lost their sparkle, and Hope looks out with empty, emotionless eyes at the world. Although most of her family and friends dismiss the idea that anything is seriously wrong with Hope, Christina eventually brings her to numerous doctors, eventually gaining a diagnosis of autism, a relatively new and unheard of disorder at the time. Christina’s life then becomes a whirlwind of doctor’s meetings, questions, medications, and more, as she tries to give Hope the best life she can muster given the circumstances. Although she often feels overwhelmed, Christina is motivated by a desire to find the passion that she knows is hidden in her daughter’s mysterious and ever-changing personality. All this changes, however, at the dramatic twist at the end of the novel that no one sees coming.
As a disclaimer, I had a very hard time deciding what to write for this review. I too have experience with a disabled family member, as my twin brother Dan has Cerebral Palsy and is a quadriplegic due to CP and other additional factors. It is because of this fact that I viewed this book differently than someone who may not have a person in his/her life that is disabled. I give Ferrante a lot of credit for writing this work; I understand that she has a child who is profoundly autistic herself and therefore may have used the writing of this story as a type of therapy or vehicle in which to create a story similar to her own. These things are really important, as a support structure is vital to the family of someone with a disability as it helps them during the inevitable hard times. The thing I took issue with, however, was the overall tone of the book. I understand that Christina would be incredibly frustrated and alienated at times with having to deal with this disorder day in and day out. It was the high amount of negativity that struck me, however, and made it harder to read as time went on. Yes, I know that there were moments of brevity and connection between Christina and Hope, but they were few and far between. Perhaps that was the point, that it’s not easy at all to have a profoundly autistic daughter. And I would assume it is, although I have no direct experience in the matter. I do, however, have direct experience with a brother that can’t do many of the things (both physically and mentally) that we take for granted. And because of this, I know that it’s very, very important to focus on the positives. It’s easy to question everything and get caught up in the negative, but it’s not the right way. Every day is a gift, and we need to be reminded of this. To majorly focus on the bad things and keep the plot development on a downward spiral was not helping. I think the material may be there, but the focus of the work needed some tweaking. I do applaud Ferrante for her honesty and ability to show us all the daily battles that go in to caring for someone with this type of autism through Christina’s story. It can’t be easy and her writing definitely showed that. I perhaps was just too emotionally invested in this type of story that I couldn’t give it an appropriate rating.
Hope by Victoria Ferrante
iUniverse Incorporated (2011)
Paperback: 232 pages
Special thanks to Author Solutions for my review copy!