The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson

thehorseboyThe Horse Boy: A Father’s Quest to Heal His Son by Rupert Isaacson
357 Pages
2009
5/5

The Horse Boy tells the story of a young boy with Autism and his parents’ wish to ease the burdens of it. Not to “cure” his autism, but to lessen the tantrums, the physical incontinence, the extreme displeasure at times. Rupert and Kristin Isaacson’s young son is named Rowan, his middle name Besa, taken from a bushman, a shaman from Africa. Rupert and Kristin’s lives are dramatically affected by young Rowan’s behavior as an autistic child. They want a healing, an answer to his behavior. Rowan’s father one day notices an uncanny closeness that Rowan shares with a neighbor’s horse, Betsy. The horse bows down in submission when he meets Rowan and the two take to one another immediately. Rowan and his father often go for rides with the horse and it’s one of the few times that Rowan’s tantrums disappear. He has a connection with not only this horse, but with other animals, all animals really. He’s able to recite names of animals that I’ve never even heard of before.

Based on this closeness with horses, Rupert decides (after talking his wife into it) to try an alternative form of healing. He takes his family to Mongolia, land of horses, to visit the Shamans of the land. He paints a beautiful picture of the land itself, of the customs of it’s natives, of the enchanting and strange ceremonies of the Shamans. And he paints an even more beautiful picture of his son as he works towards a healing place in a land that he seems born to visit, to inhabit.

horseboyreindeerI truly can’t say enough about this book. It was beautiful. I’ve worked with children with autism before and they are beautiful kids. But I also know of their tantrums, and that’s not so beautiful. First of all, I applaud Rupert and Kristin for having the courage and the faith to try alternative forms of healing on Rowan. They are wonderful parents, the both of them. One of the things that I loved the most about their views is that they were not looking for a cure for their son. They accept his autism and don’t see it as a disease, they see it as somewhat of a gift where he keeps one foot in our world and the other in another world that most of us will never know. But they do want the best life for him and they take us on this incredible journey with them to find it.

This story is so heartwarming at times and at other times it’s heart-wrenching. We experience the ups and downs of this wonderful little boy, Rowan. There are times when he’s almost unbearably cute…sometimes even during his tantrums as he screams “GIR-AAAAAAAFE” and “FRENCH FRY IE IE IE IES”. Though I’m sure it’s not so cute for Rhorseboydadupert and Kristin. The descriptions of Mongolia, Siberia, and of the shamanic ceremonies themselves are literally breath taking. I lost myself in this story so many times as if it were a work of fiction.

This story is not just about autism.  It’s about alternative healing methods, shamanism, Buddhism to an extent, marriage, child rearing, spirituality in it’s various forms, kinship, and hope. It’s told effortlessly, yet with so much care and attention and respect to th story itself as it came to be.

Rupert Isaacson has started a fund for children with autism and a camp to help children with PDD (pervasive developmental disorder) through equine therapy. Proceeds from this book go to support that. I received a review copy of this one, but you can bet that I’ll be buying a copy as well. It’s released on April 14th. That’s either tomorrow or today depending on when you’re reading this and I hope that some of you will read this amazing and touching story.

The Horse Boy has also been made into a movie that is currently touring the festival circuit. I can’t wait to see this one! Here’s the trailer for you to enjoy and for you to meet Rowan and some of his healers:

You can also visit the Horse Boy website to learn more about Rowan and his family and to see many more pictures from the journey!

Other Views and Opinions:

Bermuda Onion

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17 Responses

  1. Sheesh…that trailer left me with tears in my eyes. The sweet sort of tears. This book sounds wonderful. Thanks so much for the review, Chris.

  2. Debi, It did the same thing to me…so did the book. I know, just KNOW that you would love this one 🙂

  3. Wow, that sounds like an amazing book!

  4. Having worked in the education field for almost 10 years I’ve had the opportunity to work and interact with several autistic children with differing degrees of autism. Anything that makes them come alive is a treat to watch and experience. This book sounds phenomenal and I WILL be reading it soon!! Your review was just awesome Chris. Now if I only had high-speed instead of dial-up I could watch that heart-wrenching video!!!

  5. I like the trailer a lot too. And Temple Gradin is in it!! That’s the woman Oliver Sacks writes about in An Anthropologist on Mars.

    I like what you said about how they weren’t trying to “cure” him. And wow, Mongolia…you know, I know next to nothing about it, but what you said here, plus the gorgeous landscapes in the trailer, made me want to read more.

  6. My neighbor has 2 girls.. one is autistic. When I first moved here Milly was still in diapers and screaming her head off at everything… the right teacher seemed to get the screaming under control and she really is doing well now. For the longest time she’d call me “gandma” ’cause of my gray hair, now she calls me Pat.. :o( But she is doing really well.

  7. That sounds like a very beautiful book. I admire parents of autistic children, all special needs children really, for the courage and sacrifice it takes to do right by these kids. So many do not have the strength or the resources to do it and while there is help there certainly isn’t enough help to go around, at least not when it comes to state funded help or federally funded programs for those who cannot afford to do something amazing like this family did.

  8. Chris, this is a book that I would never have picked up on my own. BUT … your review is amazing and it really got to me. I’ll definitely put this one on my list – and near the top too.

  9. It sounds like such a beautiful book. I really want to read this one!

  10. You know, I have a feeling that this is going to be one of those books that’ll make me cry no matter where I am. I scoured my train station’s bookstore today for this (full well expecting to return without this, but hey it never hurts to check), although actually I was waiting for your review of it to give me that additional push. (It’s not worked yet, but that’s because of finances. I’m off to add this to my ‘may buy this’ list for a little later!)

  11. Darla, it is an amazing book! I hope you read this one.

    Staci, Oh I hope you get to see the trailer. The documentary looks phenomenal. Kudos to you for working with these children. It’s a real blessing when you see some improvement, isn’t it? I used to just crave time with this one kid with autism that I used to work with. Hope you like it!

    Nymeth, Oooh, Now I have to go get Anthropolist on Mars now! She seems like such a great person…she’s in the book too. I think you would REALLY like this one. In fact, I really can’t imagine anyone not liking this one. I loved that they looked at it as a healing and not a cure too. People are so quick to want a “cure” for everything these days and I think that too an extent, that would strip a person of who they are. I knew next to nothing about Mongolia too before I read this book and after reading it I want to go just to see the beautiful, beautiful landscapes. He paints the picture perfectly.

    Deslily, That’s so damn cute! I wish she still called you Gandma, but Pat works too, eh? Glad to hear that she is doing well these days! You know, you might enjoy this book more than you think you would. It’s extremely engaging.

    Carl, The lack of state funding for children with special needs (and adults for that matter) has always pissed me off severely! That strikes a nerve with me very quickly. Rupert Isaacson is doing wonders by starting his camp in Austin for kids with autism. That’s a true gift to them.

    Heather, Oh good! I’m so glad that you’re going to read this one…it’s a fantastic book!

    Jeane, Now I know that you will just adore this one, animal lover that you are 🙂 In fact, I thought about you while I was reading this book quite often. Hope you get to read it soon!

    Shanra, LOL…it is really quite touching at times. Not only will it make you cry, but it will make you laugh at times too. It’s a beautiful book. Hope you can afford this one soon! Does your library have it on order maybe?

  12. I just have to wait a month or so to know where I’m at. ^-^ Maybe two if April turns out more expensive than I thought. And maybe less if it turns out less expensive than I thought.

    Unfortunately, I can give you a 99% guarantee my library won’t have it, but it never hurts to check. (It’s a small-town library in the Netherlands. Most English books that make it in are the mainstream bestseller’s lists because the demand just isn’t there.)

    One day, when I have my degree and figure everything out, I’m moving to a native English-speaking country… *sigh* (That or I can dream I will.)

  13. Thanks Chris, This sounds like a wonderful book.

  14. Shanra, I totally understand. My credit card likes to pay for many of my books 😉 But I get most of them from either bookmooch, publishers, or the library. So that’s good! I didn’t know you lived in the Netherlands! That’s really cool!

    Gavin, Thank you! It really is a fantastic book!!

  15. I don’t think I could live without my credit card now, even if it’d be better for my finances all-round…

    I’m a ninja-Dutchie and fool even those who’ve known me ages into thinking I’m not Dutch! ^-~

    One day, I must investigate bookmooch properly… I might even be able to part with some of my books (*gasp*). Well, more like I might be able to part with some of mum‘s books. She’s always talking about clearing her bookshelves and then Not Doing It. I come from a family of packrats. ^-~

  16. Sounds really interesting. I’ve been curious about Mongolia since I went to China, as I only managed to get close to the Mongolian border, I didn’t manage to travel through the country. This sounds like a very touching story too. Great review, thanks!

  17. I listened to this book and loved it.

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