I wish I could have the experience of spending five minutes in my child’s mind and body. You might think it’s a crazy wish, but I so wonder what it’s like to be her. Many parents of children with disabilities do. She holds her hands in a funny little way, slightly cupped, with her fingers, slightly jumbled. I’ve tried using my hands in that position, and it sure feels awkward to me.
When she stops to think hard, she takes a long pause while her see-through eyes seem to be searching her brain. What’s going on in there? I wonder.
A neuroscientist turned author, Genova answers that universal question – What’s going on in there? – in all of her novels. Her best-known, Still Alice, about a Harvard professor with early onset Alzheimer’s, is now an Oscar-winning movie.
In Love Anthony, she gives voice to a nonverbal little boy with autism, Anthony. His altered perspective of the world gives us startling insight into his thoughts and feelings, and turns our conventional thinking inside out.
We come to understand that his obsession with the Three Little Pigs has nothing to do with the storyline. It's all about the number 3.
After all, this sing-song tale is filled with perfect 3's, from "not by the hair on my chinny chin chin" to "I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in." Even the title, with three words plus the number 3, makes him smile.
What Anthony loves is not the story, but the music of his mother’s voice singing her beautiful song in 3’s. His jumping and flapping and screeching means, “I love you, mom. Sing it again.”
Meanwhile, mom swears her head will explode if she has to read that same story about the pigs and the wolf One. More. Time.
Sound familiar? Genova's penetrating fiction rings true.
In Love Anthony, expanded empathy -- a goodness the world needs more of -- is yours for the taking.
And for parents of children with autism, this book's affirmation of your unconditional love feels like a hug.