Friday, 6 September 2013

Review: The Spark by Kristine Barnett

Kristine Barnett's son, Jacob, is a genius with a photographic memory. He took his first college-level courses at the age of eight. At thirteen, he's already a paid researcher and on track to potentially win a Nobel Prize someday. And he has autism. The Spark is the memoir of mother and son.

I read The Spark for a book club. Before I had read even a word of it, I was excited. Memoirs, especially those written by "regular" people (i.e. not famous actors, controversial politicians or the like) about their very relatable challenges, fears, successes and loves. Once I started reading, my excitement waned. Don't get me wrong, the idea of this book and Jacob's story are fantastic. I would read a thousand similar long as they were written by different authors. I, and a lot of readers I spoke with, found Kristine Barnett's voice to be a bit off-putting. I was barely able to finish a book I had been excited to read before cracking its cover.

Personal preferences aside, Barnett also gives the impression that autism can be "conquered" so to speak, by a persistent mother. That isn't the case. There is much we still don't know about autism and it's almost impossible to predict outcomes. I was left with the feeling that readers could come away from this book with a sense of false hope or, worse still, a feeling that they did not do enough to "fix" their child's autism. For those reasons, I just can't get behind this book.

Have you read The Spark? Did you find the voice of the author off-putting? Am I being too picky? Have you ever read a book that you didn't like simply because of the way it was written?


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