This book came highly recommended by a psychologist friend of mine. While it is fiction, it gives a very realistic look into the lives of a family affected by autism. Told in the first person, you get an intimate view of how autism feels.
Livvie Owen is 14, and she has two sisters, one older, one younger, and a mom & dad. They’ve moved multiple times, a result of both life circumstances–they live in a dying small town–and Livvie’s disruptive behavior, which landlords find hard to tolerate. Every time they leave a house, Livvie writes “Livvie Owen Lived Here” on her favorite wall. While she can’t read herself, she remembers how to write that one line. And she is going to move again.
Dooley’s writing style is engaging. I enjoyed her exposition; she lets the details of the family unfold naturally, rather than introducing each character in an explanatory paragraph or chapter. So you find out for yourself that Natasha is composed, compassionate and intelligent but running out of ways to take care of her sister. You discover the stresses that Simon and Karen suffer through, and find sympathy for their occasional lapses of patience. You find that Lanie is very bright but just 11, after all. I especially like the portrayals of the other students in Livvie’s class, and her teacher. The characters are vivid and realistic.
While this story details a fairly short period in the lives of these characters, rich detail is filled in by Livvie’s memories. And this brief span of months is enough to see growth and change in Livvie and her family, without any attempt to unrealistically wrap up every problem and obstacle. The book is sweet without being sentimental, educational without being preachy, gritty without being grim. In the end, you’re left satisfied that, even if all of the Owens family’s problems are not completely solved, they’re going to come out OK. And that is all anyone can ask.