A Friend Like Henry

This is one of those books that resonates for a long time. There are many reasons for this, the one which stood out for me was the dedication and commitment of these parents to the well being and integration of their children. I was startled by the extent of their struggle to find a space and a place for their son socially, academically and psychologically. The isolation of their struggle to mainstream him was simply disturbing. For this reason alone, this book is worth reading.

In literary terms, it is one of those memoirs that is actually well crafted and a pleasure to read. Gardner clearly has a way with words and she has managed to capture so many elements in this narrative that the reader is captivated by her voice. Through her prose we appreciate so many aspects of her life: her battle to fall pregnant, the challenges she faced with her son and her husband and the people around her, her amazing tower of strength mother and of course, the beauty of Henry, the true hero of this book.

While, at times I felt as though this book was too pointedly saying thank you to all those people who helped the Gardners on their journey, I found myself forgiving Gardner for this and appreciating her need to publicly acknowledge people.

One of the things which will stay with me for a long time to come is the way in which the officials (medical and social) failed to really appreciate this mother’s  struggle and in fact presented more obstacles than aids. As a consequence, while this book recounts Nuala’s personal story, it is also a testimony to the fact that one has to stand up for oneself, that you are your best advocate and that when you believe in something you have to ensure that nothing gets in your way.

This family’s tenacity of spirit, their will to succeed, their awe-inspiring determination and their love for each other are all inspiring. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to be moved.

An interesting article for The Sunday Times.

Fascinating YouTube of Henry and Dale.

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