Karl Taro Greenfeld's brother Noah was not like other babies. He couldn't crawl‚ he couldn't speak‚ he had trouble making eye contact and interacting with his family members. Karl knew his brother wasn't normal and his parents knew something was wrong with their younger son but no one-not doctors‚ specialists‚ or social workers-could say what exactly was the problem with Noah. As Noah got older‚ his differences became more pronounced. He never developed the skills of self-sufficiency that other children learn‚ and as a young boy he was unable to tie his own shoes‚ use the toilet‚ or verbally communicate. Noah also became prone to violence‚ both towards himself and others. He spat and clawed at eyes and pulled hair‚ and as he grew older he began to inflict physical harm on himself by scratching‚ hitting himself‚ and endlessly banging his head against hard surfaces. Noah's parents‚ Josh Greenfeld and Foumiko Kometani‚ dedicated their lives to caring for their boy‚ which Josh chronicled in his bestselling trilogy of books about Noah: A CHILD CALLED NOAH‚ A PLACE FOR NOAH‚ and A CLIENT CALLED NOAH. (Published in 1972‚ 1978‚ and 1987‚ respectively‚ all these titles are currently out of print.)
But BOY ALONE is not the story of Noah; it is the story Karl‚ who spent his childhood and his life in the shadow of autism‚ tending to the needs of a disabled sibling while trying to determine his own needs and his own path. BOY ALONE is an examination of two lives--Karl's and Noah's--and an investigation into what "a life" really means. Can consciousness exist without self-consciousness? Can consciousness exist without language? What caused Noah's autism and can the effects be reversed? At the same time‚ the family of an autistic child is forced to confront more practical questions of existence: how do aging parents care for a nonverbal‚ often violent grown man? Of all the methods for "dealing with" autism-multivitamin therapy‚ Operant Conditioning‚ Facilitation‚ Behaviorism‚ Freudian psychoanalyses‚ mainstreaming-is there anything that can be done to help an autistic child or adult become a member of mainstream society?
Haunting‚ deeply moving‚ loving and uplifting‚ this beautiful memoir gets at the heart of what it means to be a family‚ an individual‚ a brother‚ and a person. This is an utterly compelling read‚ the extent to which must be experienced to be truly understood.