The Horse Boy: A Father's Quest to Heal His Son

The Horse Boy: A Father's Quest to Heal His Son

4.2 71
by Rupert Isaacson
     
 

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When his son Rowan was diagnosed with autism, Rupert Isaacson was devastated, afraid he might never be able to communicate with his child. But when Isaacson, a lifelong horseman, rode their neighbor's horse with Rowan, Rowan improved immeasurably. He was struck with a crazy idea: why not take Rowan to Mongolia, the one place in the world where horses and shamanic… See more details below

Overview

When his son Rowan was diagnosed with autism, Rupert Isaacson was devastated, afraid he might never be able to communicate with his child. But when Isaacson, a lifelong horseman, rode their neighbor's horse with Rowan, Rowan improved immeasurably. He was struck with a crazy idea: why not take Rowan to Mongolia, the one place in the world where horses and shamanic healing intersected?

THE HORSE BOY is the dramatic and heartwarming story of that impossible adventure. In Mongolia, the family found undreamed of landscapes and people, unbearable setbacks, and advances beyond their wildest dreams. This is a deeply moving, truly one-of-a-kind story--of a family willing to go to the ends of the earth to help their son, and of a boy learning to connect with the world for the first time.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this intense, polished account, the Austin, Tex., parents of an autistic boy trek to the Mongolian steppes to consult shamans in a last-ditch effort to alter his unraveling behavior. Author Isaacson (The Healing Land) and his wife, Kristin, a psychology professor, were told that the developmental delays of their young son, Rowan, were caused by autism. Floored, the parents scrambled to find therapy, which was costly and seemed punitive, when Isaacson, an experienced rider and trainer of horses from his youth in England, hoisted Rowan up in the saddle with him and took therapeutic rides on Betsy, the neighbor's horse. The repetitive rocking and balance stimulation boosted Rowan's language ability; inspired by the results, as well as encouraged by such experts as Temple Grandin and Isaacson's own experience working with African shamans, Isaacson hit on the self-described crazy idea of taking Rowan to the original horse people, the Mongolians, and find shamans who could help heal their son. The family went in July, accompanied conveniently by a film crew and van, which five-year-old Rowan often refused to leave, and over several rugged weeks rode up mountains, forded rivers and camped, while enduring strange shamanic ceremonies. Isaacson records heartening improvement in Rowan's firestormlike tantrums and incontinence, as he taps into an ancient, valuable form of spirit healing. (Apr.)

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Library Journal
Isaacson (The Healing Land) tells the absorbing, at turns heartwarming and heart-wrenching tale of his autistic son, Rowan, and how a family horseback-riding trip to Mongolia helped change all their lives. He expresses his son's vocalizations with kindness while also conveying the boy's frustration and confusion, and his travel-writing skills enhance the story of their adventure, which is not for the faint of heart. Music and sound recorded for the accompanying documentary, a 2009 Sundance Film Festival selection (www.horseboymovie.com), are incorporated into the title's sound design. For families with autistic children and those who enjoy biographies, travel narratives, and horse stories. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/8/09, and Audio News Briefs, LJ 3/15/09.—Ed.]—J. Sara Paulk, Fitzgerald-Ben Hill Cty. Lib., Fitzgerald, GA
Kirkus Reviews
CD 978-1-60024-542-8.A father goes to great and treacherous lengths to "cure" his autistic son..Texas-based travel writer Isaacson met wife Kristin while traveling through India on assignment. The birth of their son Rowan in 2001 joyfully coincided with their seven-year anniversary. It wasn't long, however, before Kristin, a child-development psychologist, recognized early deficiencies in Rowan, as well as intermittent tantrums and mood swings that quickly increased in severity and regularity. After Rowan was diagnosed with autism at two-and-a-half, both parents considered various behavioral interventions. Some promised a possible recovery while others—chemical detoxification, viral therapy, diet modification—seemed overly radical. Only rushed trips into the forest seemed to quell Rowan's rages, which by age three had become a daily occurrence. The boy had a one-time positive response to healers and shamans from a delegation of Kalahari Bushmen Isaacson knew from his years in Africa. Rowan also demonstrated an extraordinary connection with animals, specifically with Betsy, an aging mare who genuflected in uncharacteristic "voluntary obeisance" whenever she was in the boy's presence. In learning to ride Betsy, even Rowan's verbal skills improved. Putting all these pieces together, the author proposed to a reluctant Kristin that they backpack and ride horses across Mongolia, integrating Rowan with the faith and trance healers of the "horse people" who lived there. Together with their guide Tulga, the Isaacsons experienced unorthodox rituals, mineral springs and exotic edible delicacies (fermented mare's milk, bloody "boiled and quivering" sheep's lung). They navigated the hilly terrain ofthe Mongolian steppe and, after a grueling nine-hour ascent into the mountains of southern Siberia, met Ghoste, a powerful Siberian shaman. By this stage in his quest, however, Isaacson begins to sound like a dangerously focused extremist. His determination in seeking normalcy for his son was honorable, but the dangerous situations he was willing to put his family in to achieve this goal are disturbing..Breathtaking atmosphere, solid prose and stunning cultural observations can't obscure troubling parental desperation and skewed priorities..Agent: Elizabeth Sheinkman/Curtis Brown U.K.
Dr. Temple Grandin
"This is a story everyone needs to hear."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316053259
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
04/14/2009
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
144,493
File size:
13 MB
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This product may take a few minutes to download.

What People are saying about this

Urrea Luis Alberto
"Rupert Isaacson has conjured a nonfiction journey that reads like an epic novel. It is a book of endless amazements. The world of Mongolian shamans, the details of adventuresome travel, the mysterious world of autism-all are amazing. Soon you realize that the world of horses is mysterious, too-and, yes, amazing. By the time you are in the grip of this book, you'll see love, marriage, and parenthood as realms of magic, profound power, and further amazements. The Horse Boy can change the way you see your life, and it's a terrifically good read at the same time. It feels like a classic."--(Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird's Daughter and The Devil's Highway)

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