Claremont, CA, United States
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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-06-18

Great for meditation or sleep

This book is full of interesting information. It is, as others have stated, occasionally repetitive in academically building it’s arguments. But it is somehow soothing, and endlessly listenable.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-24-18

Had me laughing out loud....

This was pretty fun, and at moments had me laughing out load. Especially Lando's sartorial musings. A lot of it is silly. I have no idea what the connection to the Solo movie might be (seems all to take place long after). This feels somewhere between an official novel, fanfic, and comic book, and it's FUN. Beautifully written for what it is. The multiple narrators help to keep the multiple-timelines separate when listening - a nice touch.

Don't expect a great book. But if you can look at it as a FUN book, you'll love it. At some moments I even thought this was kind of what a Daniel Pinkwater take on Star Wars might be like....

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2 of 3 people found this review helpful

1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-21-15

Can't get past inhumane treatment of sister/daughter

This is in some ways a well-written and powerful book, similar to the author's others. It is a real tearjerker, and were it not for the way the author handles Sophie, the narrator's autistic sister, I would recommend it.

But the treatment of Sophie is so... lazy, ignorant, inhumane? ... that I can't get past it. And regardless of all the nice work on character development for other characters, the way they all interact with Sophie unintentionally turns them all into pretty wretched excuses for human beings.

Basically, all Sophie does in the book is scream. This is seen by the other characters only as a burden on themselves. It causes problems with neighbors. They have to move. Sophie screams, and her family puts in earplugs. She screams until she loses her voice for a day or two, and the family then feels relief at the burden off their minds.

Never in the book do any of the characters question whether their may be a reason or cause for this screaming. Never do they try to communicate. Never in the times when she is not screaming do they try to engage. She screams, and that's a part of their life, or she is quiet, and is like a piece of furniture to them. They are reluctant to put her in an institution, which is supposed to indicate something about them having some feeling for her, some concern for her, but it m makes no sense here... there are no good times at home, there is no time when the sister/mother try to engage with her (except to try to shut her up), there is no indication that her life would be anything but improved in an institution. I don't say this lightly, and don't at all think institutionalization is the way to go in the vast majority of cases - but that's because in the vast majority of cases there would be at least a scrap of benefit, of happy experience, of deeper understanding, among family. Not here.

So, it turns out that Sophie can be calm and peaceful when around the neighbor's dog. During this good period of life when she is calm and peaceful, does anyone try to interact with her or engage with her? No. Does anyone think of getting Sophie a dog? No. Does anyone think that maybe they should find some other activities involving animals that might be good for Sophie? No. Is everyone content just to let Sophie act like a dog, as long as she isn't noisy and thus burdensome to them? Yes. When it's obvious the situation with this dog can't last, does anyone take any steps to address it? No. Again, get a freakin' dog for Sophie, find other situations with dogs/animals, anything? Even a stuffed dog? Doesn't enter anyone's mind.

During the course of this book, Sophie is picked up by a school bus and dropped off daily, for at least three years. What happens there? Does she learn anything? Does she sit there all day and scream? Does she haver any favorite activities that may indicate what would be good for her in the rest of life? Not a single word is said about what happens when Sophie is at school in the entire book. Noone seems to care. She's just out of sight, out of mind. Except when they think about what a burden her screaming is.

All these nice people, learning to love and care for each other, to find their inner humanity and connections, and none can see Sophie as a human being. We're supposed to feel bad about how the mother doesn't really see or understand the narrator. The narrator is able to see under the curmudgeonly exterior, and the curmudgeon to see so well inside the narrator to understand her best self, etc. But none of them even attempt to see Sophie. The only interaction they ever have is to try to get her to shut up. She screams, they want her to shut up. She is quiet, they don't want her to make any sound. In a crucial scene dealing with her future, she is attempting to communicate in a new way (I don't know if the author even intended it to be such) - making new vocalizations and banging a fork - and they scream "SHUT UP" in her face until she goes back to the same old screaming.

In all the catharsis, nothing is resolved for Sophie. No authorial nod is given to the fact that Soiphie - through her relationship with the dog - is the real cause of all the life-changing and coming together and getting into a better place. She's not screaming, so the characters neither hear nor think anything about her.

It is such a horrid, paper-thin, inhumane characterization of Sophie; and the actions of the people around her are so sure to guarantee that Sophie never improves her life or gets treated as a human being that they can't be seen as decent people, and any message the story aims to convey about human connectedness is obliterated. Blech!

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31 of 35 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-17-15

A beautiful, touching, and unique story!

This is a beautiful story that delves deeply into the essence of humanity, both within us and in the relations, physical and metaphysical, between us. The entire book was great, but the best part was the third quarter of the book, when things were starting to come together in the readers minds but the story hadn't yet hit the resolution phase. The ending certainly leaves a lot of interpretation up to the reader, but I liked it even better before the ending, when there was more mystery about the forces at work. I suppose it had to end! In any case, the writing is full of colorful imagery that reinforced the characters' characters, and does a great job of evolving the characters (drastically) while keeping them themselves, and of weaving together the different characters' perspectives. The narration was brilliant, especially as the narrators very effectively handled the internal/external dialog (often tightly intertwined) in a manner that made clear which was which without any annoyance. This is essential to this story, and hard to pull off. Bravo to both!

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1 of 2 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-08-15

Okay, but self-contradictory in places

An OK listen, though I'd suggest Dale Carnegie for a better take on the same ideas. This book is not as clear or concise, and is occasionally self-contradicting... For example, shortly after a rant about phone center operators showing false concern, she seems proud of herself for suggesting ways in which a researcher could send canned responses to people as a way to show concern.
But, fine, especially as a daily deal book!

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-21-14

A beautiful story that doesn't pull any punches.

This story reads like a fable, meditatively, simple and straightforward yet heavy with metaphor and intertext. It certainly is forthcoming! I don't want to give any of the story away, though the story is kind of timeless and yet secondary to the experience, so I will just say that there is much tragedy and disappointment, many questions and surprises, to the point of being quite heartbreaking at times, which makes it all the more beautiful.

The performance was excellent. The voices of some minor characters were annoying, but meant to be, and only briefly. I must also praise the production and engineering - this was non-fatiguing, never left me needing to rewind to catch too-quiet sections, and didn't have any of the glitches that often pop up in audiobooks. The recording process was totally transparent, which, unfortunately, has not been the case for any of the last 10 or so audiobooks I've listened to. So, Bravo!

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-01-14

Don't be fooled... the narrator is great!

I will not review the story much here, except to say that is a worthwhile followup to the Sparrow; anyone who enjoyed the Sparrow should read this, anyone who hasn't read the Sparrow should read it first. An excellent and thought-provoking book, perhaps not quite the masterpiece the Sparrow was, but worthy of it.

When first listening to this immediately after finishing the Sparrow, I was thrown by the narrator. The narration on the Sparrow was sublime, among the best I've listened to, possibly THE best, especially given the range of characters and attitudes that needed to be voiced. The beginning of Children of G-d is narrator-heavy (as opposed to dialog-heavy), and the contrast between the bold, female narrator here and the subdued, plaintive male narrator of the Sparrow gave me pause. I worried it would be a disappointment. But, again, the characterizations were sublime, and cohesive with the Sparrow's. Anna Fields' narratorial voice turns out to be better suited to many of the parts of THIS book - especially the major characters of Haanala and Isaac (sp?). Really beautifully done, adding a great deal to this complex world. Brava! Also a strong candidate for best-narrated audiobook ever.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-11-14

Gives tremendous insight, beautiful and poetic.

This little book is the attempt of a non-verbal n autistic boy to address the many questions that people want him to answer about the way he behaves. The answers, and especially the things one can intuit by reading between the lines, are very enlightening and help one get a glimmer of the relation - or opposition - between the inner self and the outer behavior of people like this. It is startling, and almost unbelievable... But there are many similar narratives starting to appear, and they paint a similar picture. The most important and saddest revelation, to me, was the sense of sadness and guilt the boy felt about the way his behavior frustrated other people, and the great desire for people to not give up on him.

The author is young, and though wise in many ways, does as some reviews state seem to go too far speaking for all people on the spectrum... And yet, outside of specifics, I think he does make a good and legitimate spokesman. That is, one shouldn't attribute all of he specific behaviors and causes and feelings that he has to all on the spectrum, but his beautiful presentation of his case teaches people much about the disjunction between inner and outer self that is fairly common, and trains the mind a bit in how to try to see around this disjunction. I would say it's an invaluable text for anyone concerned for people on the spectrum.

And, it is beautifully written, poetic, and touching. The audiobook is wonderfully narrated. A gem.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-29-14

Good, recommended, though at times iffy!

This was a very listenable audiobook with some interesting ideas. It certainly held my attention and kept me involved. At the same time, it constantly seemed to be channeling other, similar books. Most frequently, "Atlas Shrugged", with many long-winded and somewhat repetitive passages about makers and takers, in the one-dimensionality of many of the characters, and in the (SPOILER?) decision of the makers to separate themselves (unlike Ayn Rand's, however, Kress does not seem to making a political statement with one "side" clearly in the right; this is a much more balanced examination of the societal split). Then we have similarities to Ender's Game, and other books about super children. And other similarities that have drifted from my mind... sorority stories? Animal Farm?

And yet it remains readable and enjoyable. The premise is interesting. I often wished that the author had limited the extra abilities of the sleepless to just not sleeping, and gone into more detail about that. I mean, the brief touching upon parents who couldn't deal with babies that never slept was a glimpse into what could have been a really fascinating exploration; and I would have liked to see more of the psychological effects on adults of not sleeping - of no downtime, of no escape, of solitary nights, etc. In the book it's pretty much all up side, and augmented by several other "super powers"... I'd rather have seen more detail and more realistic balance of benefits and deficits of sleeplessness.

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3 of 4 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-04-14

Too bitter and angry for me.

I am tempted to write some disclaimer about how everyone's experience differs and that one shouldn't judge the emotions and responses of others in difficult situations. But... then I think about this mother describing a scene where she she brings her newborn baby on a picnic in the course of an extramarital affair, where she drinks while nursing (descussing how she thinks the baby might be getting "a little tipsy, too"), then gets into the car with the baby and goes for a drive while "a little tipsy." This woman prejudges every medical or therapeutic professional she interacts with to the point that there's no chance that anything could possibly meet with success. But most problematically for me, reading this book has such a sense of anger, bitterness, and recklessness that it leaves me feeling grimy. I can't find the narrator at all likeable. I've read many similar books, with parents trying all sorts of things to help their children, from traditional medical approaches to rejecting such and diving deep into the child's world, but this is the only one where I ever felt that the parent's motivation was more about herself than about the child. Right before this I read "Bad Animals", which also had a narrator whose behavior and attitudes occasionally gave pause, but was somewhat likeable, very informative, and clearly motivated first and foremost by love for his child. Where other books have a good amount of "confessional" nature, with parents reflecting on the less-than-perfect actions they have taken in a regretful way, this one misses that regret, and seems to be actively flaunting bad behavior and dismissive of anyone's (especially the readers) concerns. Where the author claims to be saying to the world, "this is my son, accept him as he is", this book reads like a bratty teenager saying "this is me, accept me as I am".

But, heck, it's someone's experience. Maybe the reader made things seem worse than they would in writing. as sometimes happens. I think it's sad that there are people that are like the narrator APPEARS. Her attribution of bad intent to almost everyone who interacts with her son denies him a great deal of community and goodwill. It makes her, too, isolated. It seems to take away her joy in mothering, which is pretty much absent in this book, and must make her son feel that much leerier of social interactions. So, as one of many autism-parent-books, I think maybe it's OK for a different mental attitude (of the narrator, not towards autism)... but I could not recommend it as the ONLY book to read on the subject.

The author repeatedly comes back to the regret of having said a perfunctory "thank you" to people she didn't believe deserved her thanks. She opens by expressing her continually held rage at the person who first suggested that her son might be autistic. To avoid regrets such as the former, and to celebrate the latter, who could not leave something so important unsaid, I feel I should say this: Having been through the many, repetitive, and exhausting evaluations and tests and visits and such, with numerous organizations, I can say that I've never encountered anyone as cold and cruel as EVERYONE that Kerry Cohen describes. I'm not saying that there might not be a few bad apples, but the fact that she finds them so overwhelmingly cruel and uncaring says more about Cohen's prejudgement than about the process. This is a hard and often heartbreaking job, generally not very well-paid (especially when in the public sector). The people want to help. They may be biased towards an approach that they are familiar with, and especially which they feel they have had success with. It doesn't mean that they "value their theories more than the child". In general, these are warm people trying to help as best they can. Certainly we've all had times when we didn't think that a suggested approach or therapy was a good fit for our own situation, but we usually understand that it's just a mismatch, not cruelty or incompetence on the part of the "other."

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful