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Next Stop: A Memoir of Family

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  • Posted April 2, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    David Finland and his mother, Glen, spend a whole summer traveli

    David Finland and his mother, Glen, spend a whole summer traveling the Washington D.C. trains.  Whereas it was a constant surprise for David when he was a child, now the goal is for him to learn how to navigate traveling on his own.  In fact, that is the goal of this entire account.  While it is easy to parent an autistic child forever, assuming responsibility in all aspects, it’s not healthy or beneficial to David.  The unspoken question remains if he can maintain independence without always checking in with Mom and Dad, a serious question with no easy answers.
    The first thing one realizes on reading is that every disabled child, particularly autistic children/adults, is unique.  There’s no cookie cutter pattern to follow but David Finland is able to show what works and what doesn’t.  His biggest problem is that he gets so distracted and focused on one thing that everything else is off his radar or thinking.   
    Glen describes the frantic search initially for what caused David’s problems and is not shy about discussing people’s kind but more often cruel or thoughtless comments about David’s autism, including mainstream children in school who can be the most heartless and the most lacking in understanding and compassion.  But the story of Glen and her husband’s journey with David is the most inspiring part of this story.  No, they don’t learn it in classes, although they get some clues here and there from other programs. They learn by trial and error, by not condemning and always encouraging, while realistically setting limits, not an easy task at all.
    David is off the radar as far as others’ emotional needs but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his own way of showing care and love. The possibilities of jobs come and go but the Finland family forge on, knowing there’s a spot just for David.  He loves working with animals which is a distinct possibility for the future. A brief time in Florida turns out to fizzle out, along with a threat from another guy taking advantage of David’s trusting nature. At one point, he vocalizes his “right” to have a job, his own place and how that can’t be denied him.
    The story goes on and one, getting better and better. This is such a very real story which anyone in contact with autistic children should read, even if one only briefly meets someone like David.  It’ about hope no matter how it’s tested and an unconditional love that brooks no permanent obstacles for an adult son who has the “right” to live like everyone else.  This portrait is well-written as well without stereotypical sermonizing or whining, even when it hurts so much! Kudos to you Glen Finland for sharing your journey – we are the better for it and are rooting for David’s future.  

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 18, 2012

    A story of a troubled family and a mother's love - EXCELLENT!

    If you have a family member who is autistic, then Glen Finland's memoir, NEXT STOP, is a must read. If you don't have an autistic relative, well, it's still a must read, because I'll bet you know someone who fits somewhere on that long sliding scale of autism, whether you knew it or not. And if you do, you're gonna recognize him/her as you read Finland's description of her "differently abled" son, David. Hell, if you appreciate good writing, then NEXT STOP is an abolulutely must read.

    I've read a few books on Asperger's recently - Robison's LOOK ME IN THE EYE, and Tim Page's PARALLEL PLAY, both excellent - but compared to David Finland, those guys seem nearly normal. Because David's already rather acute autism was accompanied by what Finland called "a mean mix of ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Tourette's syndrome ... The tics include eye-blinking, head or shoulder jerking, facial grimacing, and, in David's case, snorting sounds often combined with an upper body twist, a hop, and a punch to his own mouth ..."

    The twist that makes Finland's story different from those told by other parents of autistic children is that she begins in the year David turns 21, and details the year she spent riding the DC subway systems with her son, hoping that if he could learn the underground system, he could perhaps find a job and gain some measure of independence. Fortunately, David has a fascination with maps. Along the way she tells the story of David's life up to that point. But it's not just about David, it's about the whole family: her husband Bruce, and her two older (normal) sons and the toll David's afflictions had taken on the whole family. She is quite brutally candid and, I think, painfully honest about the tensions and resentments often caused, and yet she never loses her sense of humor. And perhaps that is what has saved this family - kept it intact.

    There are no punches pulled in this story of the Finland family. It has not been easy; that much is obvious. But Finland's love for her damaged son is a fierce one and a constant one. Oh, she gets angry at him, but she always remembers - or her husband reminds her - that David's take on the world is radically different from that of normal people. All those missed clues, the obliviousness. There is no happy ending here. But there is faith, there is hope, and, most of all, there is that fierce, continuing love.

    Finland says, "I never claimed to be a good mother, just barely good enough." Well, judging from this brutally, painfully honest story of a family, I would beg to differ. And not only is she a good mother, she's a damn fine writer. This is a book that is nearly impossible to put down. I recommend it highly.

    - Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER, and the acclaimed REED CITY BOY trilogy

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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