When journalist Steve Lopez sees Nathaniel Ayers playing his heart out on a two-string violin on Los Angeles' skid row, he finds it impossible to walk away. More than 30 years ago, Ayers was a promising classical bass student at Juilliard - ambitious, charming, and also one of the few African-Americans there - until he gradually lost his ability to function, overcome by schizophrenia.Over time, the two men form a bond and Lopez imagines that he might be able to change Ayers' life. The Soloist is a beautifully told story of devotion in the face of seemingly unbeatable challenges.
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This is one of the best audio books I've listened to in a while. Excellent writing, wonderful narration, and a terrific story.
The author provides a good perspective on how mental health affects lives and how one person can make a difference in someone's life.
It will tug at your soul, stretch your heart and bring tears to your eyes.
It is seldom that I choose nonfiction books, and when I do I am often disappointed. Not this time. I haven't seen the movie . . . doubt if I will . . . they usually come no where near the book. I am one of those people who have really been angered by the laws which put the mentally ill out on the streets many years ago, when "in their best interest" the mental institutions were eventually all closed down, along with all the other institutional placements for the severely handicapped. You see, I am the mother of a severely mentally retarded, severely autistic adult, who only through the grace of God, lots of work on our part (mine and my husband's), and constantly advocating for her, is now in an appropriate group home close to us, where she is safe. Mental illness is very different. But I'm not entirely sure that we've done these precious people any service by closing all the facilities which once housed them. There are so many ethical questions, so many questions of safety, not only of the mentally ill themselves, but that of the family members who spend years trying their best to care for their loved ones, many of which end up injured and sometimes killed by the person they are trying to take care of. One of the saddest stories happened here in Alabama when a teenage boy killed both his parents, and severely injured his siblings, several years ago. This family could not get any help from authorities or physicians, because the boy "had not actually harmed them" YET. The Soloist is a hauntingly beautiful, deeply moving story of a gifted musician who is unable to make health, cleanliness or other basic choices in life. Therefore he is "free". But everyone around him, everyone who loves him is TRAPPED in a vicious cycle of needing to help him, of continuing to hope, and of fighting the illusion that he CAN be helped. Nathaniel Ayers life has VALUE. God created Nathaniel. God created our sweet daughter. What we learned, over many, many years, is that God also created these special people to be adults, in whatever shape or form that is. And that God releases us, as their parents, as their caretakers, to also take care of ourselves. I fear that our society and our nation have not done well by those who truly need help the most, and cannot help themselves, while continuing to subsidize those who are ABLE BODIED. And the answers are not simple. But they are WORTH seeking.