Saving Max

‘Saving Max’ is Antoinette van Heugten’s first book. It focuses on Danielle Parkman, a single mother and lawyer from New York and her son Max, a 16 year old with high functioning autism. As Max’s behaviours and moods get harder for Danielle and Max’s therapist to manage, it is recommended that he be admitted to Maitland Psychiatric Asylum in Iowa. One of the best inpatient facilities in the country. Once there, Danielle befriends another mother Marianne Morrison whose son Jonas has also just been admitted as he is profoundly autistic. Once admitted, Max’s behaviour gets increasingly violent and the staff diagnose him with schizoaffective disorder. A diagnosis that Danielle refuses to accept. She wants a second opinion. But before anything can be done, Max is accused of murdering Jonas. And given that Danielle and he are both found at the crime scene with the murder weapon by a nurse doesn’t help the cause.

Danielle is convinced that Max is not a murderer. But she has to convince Max’s lawyer Tony Sevillas and the private investigator Doaks of the same. And it’s hard to do it when she herself is released on bail and due to stand trial for her role.

Did Max murder Jonas in a fit of psychotic rage?

Why did his behaviours escalate at the facility?

Who is the shadow that Danielle thinks she saw leaving the crime scene?

Are any of the doctors responsible for Max’s behaviours?

How far would Danielle go to save her son?

To know all these answers, you have to of course read the book.

It’s a good suspense novel and has all the right ingredients to keep you interested. However, there are certain things that Danielle does to try and save her son which seem a bit too far-fetched in my opinion. A few things are also quite questionable including things like security at the inpatient facility and the way it all seems like a set up from the 70s. The court scene is quite interesting but then again, I’ve always found those interesting (thanks to John Grisham!) And while you find out whodunit about three-quarters into the book, there are other questions that remain unanswered. All in all, it’s a decent thriller if you are not looking for high quality literature. I give it a 3.

Until next time,

Cheers!

Battle hymn of the tiger mother

‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger mother’ is a book by Amy Chua on what she calls Chinese parenting versus Western parenting. Let me just say, I didn’t pick up this book by choice; rather it was a decision made by the book club I’m part of given that the other members are all parents and I work with children and thereby have an understanding of parenting. It is a memoir of her journey parenting her two daughters, Sophia and Louisa (Lulu) the Chinese way along with her husband, a white Jewish American, Jed.

Amy’s parents were migrants to America making her a first generation immigrant. She and her sisters were brought up the ‘Chinese way’ and she believes this to be far superior to the Western way of bringing up children. She does admit that the Chinese form of parenting is emulated by other cultures such as Indian, Korean or Ghanian among others. Basically, she asserts that unlike Western parenting, Chinese parents believe the following:

1. Schoolwork always comes first

2. An A-minus is a bad grade

3. Your children must be 2 years ahead of their classmates in maths

4. You must never compliment your child in public

5. If you child ever disagrees with a teacher or a coach, you must always take the side of the teacher or coach

6. The only activities your children should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal

7. That medal must be gold

Yes, and that’s exactly what she brought up her two daughters with.

She also states what Sophia and Lulu were never allowed to do: attend sleepovers, have playdates, be in a school play, watch tv or play computer games, choose their own extra-curricular activities, get grades less than an A, and not play piano or violin.

In her book she talks about how she brought up her two daughters with the above messages. Never letting them go on playdates. Having about 4 to 6 hours of violin (for Lulu) and piano (for Sophia) practice. Doing extra school work. She pushed them to work on their music and their academics. While Sophia rarely resisted, Lulu on the other hand rebelled eventually especially upon reaching 13. Amy talks about how Sophia ended up playing at Carnegie Hall (thanks to her pushing) and Lulu attempted to get into Julliard’s pre-college course. Currently the girls are 19 and 16.

My take on all of it — this woman is crazy! Nuts! Messed up!

While I agree with kids needing to pushed a certain amount, I do not agree with a one-dimensional life that revolves solely around success in academics and music. I found myself reading the book with shock. Some of her tactics border on child abuse. She talks about instances where she wouldn’t let her kids take a bathroom break in between practising especially if they were opposing her. Another incident she mentioned was when 4 year old Lulu and 7 year old Sophia gave her handmade birthday cards for her birthday and she verbally put them down saying the cards weren’t good enough and they hadn’t put enough thought and effort into it. She went on to tell them about how much effort she puts into hosting their birthdays and asked them to re-make the cards! Tell me that’s not crazy!

There is an undertone of her bragging throughout the book — about the amount of money they have, the big house, the talented daughters, the parties she hosts, the people she know. You wonder whether the pushing of her children to the nth degree is in order for her to be able to brag. Ultimately, it’s her black and white view of Chinese v/s Western parenting that irks me. Her condescending attitude to ‘western’ parenting is hard to handle as is her superiority complex about Chinese parenting. And while it may have worked with her older daughter thanks to a passive temperament, it screws up a lot more kids than she realises. It’s scary to see a book like this out there. It almost justifies this form of parenting to those parents that already espouse to it. When in fact, it’s these very children that hide mental health problems from their parents or rebel or are so anxious and perfectionistic themselves as adults that they struggle with any form of failure.

I won’t deny that this form of parenting might work with some kids. But it won’t work with all. More importantly, if all you want for your child is success, success and more success, then her methods probably will work. But if you want your child to build relationships, to have friends and well, to have a childhood, a middle road is what is important. A positive parenting style coupled with encouragement is what will most likely work.

My rating for this book: 1. If you have to read it, borrow it from a library and learn how not to parent your kid. By that, I don’t mean doing the exact opposite but finding the middle road.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Room

…by Emma Donoghue.Narrated by five year old Jack, this is the story of his life with his Ma. The story starts with Jack’s fifth birthday and gains momentum right away with Jack describing everything around him and the way he spends his days. Both of them live in captivity in a tiny soundproof room – while Ma has lived in the world outside before she was kidnapped several years ago and yearns to get back to it someday, Jack has lived all five years of his life in the room and knows nothing about the world that exists outside. Jack and Ma spend their days cooking, eating, exercising, watching TV, reading, and sleeping with the limited supplies  available to them. For Jack, the real world is his Ma, the room and whatever is in the room…everything else he sees on TV he thinks is not for real.

After his fifth birthday, Ma decides that he is old enough to know the truth and tells him about how she was tricked and kidnapped by this person they call “Old Nick” and how there exists so much outside the room that Jack doesn’t know of. It takes some time for Jack to digest the big truth he’s just learned from Ma – that some things he sees on TV exists for real, that there are people on the outside who are related to Jack, that the room is just a tiny part of the world. Ma also tells him that all her attempts to escape from the room over the years have gone vain and that they can give it another chance if Jack helps with the escape idea. With his doubts and fears, Jack agrees to go with Ma’s plan.

What is their plan? Does it work? Do they escape? Does Jack see the real world? What happens next? You’ve got to read the book to get your questions answered.

What a delightful feeling it is to read something from a five year old’s point of view! And how emotionally draining it was to know that two people were held captive for years for no fault of theirs and were denied all the joy that they deserved.

To see how the little guy gets excited about Sunday treats that they request from “Old Nick”, to imagine the plight he goes through when he learns the world is not just the room, to try to understand his feelings and to see how he adjusts when Ma is in one of those moods when she doesn’t want to talk or play or do anything, to appreciate his bravery when he accepts to play along with Ma’s plan to escape – is to embark on a beautiful journey that will leave the reader smiling and welling up at the same time.

I was left speechless when I read how Ma, even with only little available to nourish her child physically and intellectually, does everything in her power to keep him engaged, to educate him on necessary topics, to teach him good from bad, to safeguard him from the man that is keeping them in the room, making the best use of an unbearable situation – a mother’s selfless love pours through.

Overall, reading Room is a unique experience that shouldn’t be missed – a riveting, poignant tale.

My rating: 5*.

*for the rating scale, click here.

Secret Daughter-edited

Quick Data

Author: Shilpi Somaya Gowda

ISBN: 13: 978-006192231

Website:http://www.shilpigowda.com/

[putting it as it is straight from the back of the book-the excerpt]

On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to a baby girl. But in a culture that favors sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter’s life is to give her away. It is a decision that will haunt her and her husband for the rest of their lives, even after the arrival of their cherished son.

Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When she and her husband Krishnan see a photo of the baby with the gold-flecked eyes from a Mumbai orphanage, they are convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles.

What I liked about this book is the way it has been presented in a simple manner in spite of the issue being a bit complicated. The book also takes you through the city of Mumbai in few of its’ chapters-the riches and the poors of the vast city. As the title suggests it’s about a daughter and then it’s about the mother as well. Which is interesting. The chapters weave through the happenings of India and America simultaneously without letting the reader feel confused even for a moment. Two families,two countries,two mothers and one daughter that binds them all together !

Yes..I liked the end as well..the author has treated the story pretty well when it comes to an obvious end.

Umm..there is nothing that I didn’t like about the book…just that in general it scores not more than 3 according to my opinion. It’s one of those books,you know,which you feel is a good one but you won’t want to read it again after a certain interval…it will reach your heart but I’m not sure whether it will stay with you or not…but in all a good read..check it out yourself 🙂

My rating for the book is 3*