In the past I’ve written of A Child of Eternity, the incredible book about a girl locked in an autistic body and the profound messages she began to share once acquainted with a Japanese invention allowing her to type. A library patron who’d read that review suggested I might like another book involving an autistic child called The Horse Boy. There was something about the cover which didn’t appeal to me. But once past that, there was no stopping me from reading the book out loud from cover-to-cover to Lucia.

What a story! Travel writer Rupert Isaacson and his child-psychologist wife Kristin give birth to their son Rowan seven years to the day from when they met under serendipitous circumstances in India. At the age of three Rowan is diagnosed with autism. Two years on he is still emotionally and physically incontinent and his parents are prepared to try almost anything to help him heal. The relationships of fully eighty percent of couples with autists implode. It can be an all-consuming responsibility. It certainly is for this couple.

Rupert discovers the only way to get Rowan to settle from a tantrum is to take him out into nature. On one such jaunt through the woodlands surrounding their home in rural Texas, Rowan suddenly takes off, scoots under the neighbour’s fence and flops onto the ground in front of the cantankerous alpha mare of a small herd of horses. Rupert, an experienced horseman, then witnesses a first for him in equine dealings. The horse immediately drops her head and submits to this child flopping under her on the ground.

Horse Boy follows the incredible journey of a couple prepared to go to the ends of the earth to heal their child. It carries the reader into the hidden, untouched hinterlands ofMongolia and to the almost forgotten world of the shamans found there. Repressed through sixty years of communist rule, the few remaining wisdom keepers help the family in ways they could scarcely have predicted.

Rupert Isaacson is occasionally poetic and often wise in his descriptions of the journey. Here is just one small excerpt partway through their Mongolian pilgrimage.

“Long after we had retired in our tents, I lay in that half-curious state between sleeping and waking and heard muffled hoofbeats from across the valley. A lone horseman was riding there in the dark, going from where to where? Spotting the glow from our dung fire, he hailed us, but in song, some kind of folk song that must be universally known, for suddenly Tulga [their guide] sang back to him from his tent, projecting his voice through the nighttime air to reach the traveling horseman. Song to song, heart to heart, two countrymen conversing by music here at the outer ends of the earth. Or home. For are not all places at once both the ends of the earth and home?”

Rowan is a boy with one foot in each world. His parent’s job, with the help of old-time healers, is to bring him enough into the physical world that he can function, without losing his innate spiritual connection. It works. But I will say no more. You’ll have to read this highly recommended book to find out more.


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Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives andBeyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See  In Search of Simplicity is now available as an eBook here.

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