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Next Stop: A Memoir of Family
Next Stop: A Memoir of Family
$25.95
Hardcover
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BOOK DETAILS

  • Hardcover
  • Mar.29.2012
  • 9780399158605

Glen gives an overview of the book:

It’s all in the attitude for this tall, dark, and autistic fellow, a rangy six-footer with a sexy five o’clock shadow—and the mind of a good-natured adolescent. But twenty-one year old David is desperate to tackle life on his own terms even if it means getting kicked around a bit.  Weaving bittersweet and funny anecdotes from David’s life as the youngest of three testosterone-soaked brothers, Next Stop recounts the complex relationship between an autistic adult child and his family as he steps out into the real world--solo. Rendered without sentimentality, the story is grounded in the personal narrative of a mother’s perpetually tested hope. Hardwired to protect him, letting go turns out to be harder for her than her son.  With the difficulty he has in conveying his thoughts, things twist and turn in whimsical, heart-wrenching, and even dangerous ways. On a...
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It’s all in the attitude for this tall, dark, and autistic fellow, a rangy six-footer with a sexy five o’clock shadow—and the mind of a good-natured adolescent. But twenty-one year old David is desperate to tackle life on his own terms even if it means getting kicked around a bit. 

Weaving bittersweet and funny anecdotes from David’s life as the youngest of three testosterone-soaked brothers, Next Stop recounts the complex relationship between an autistic adult child and his family as he steps out into the real world--solo. Rendered without sentimentality, the story is grounded in the personal narrative of a mother’s perpetually tested hope. Hardwired to protect him, letting go turns out to be harder for her than her son. 

With the difficulty he has in conveying his thoughts, things twist and turn in whimsical, heart-wrenching, and even dangerous ways. On a childhood visit to his 88-year old grandmother, the retired no-nonsense Special Ed teacher shows him how to drive her old Buick, then falls asleep in the passenger seat as David chauffeurs her all over town.

Through his high school years, David becomes a sort of mascot for theatrical hugs from his peers, but the phone never rings for him at home. As the prospect of becoming real empty nesters gleams in the near future for David’s parents, there are candid snapshots of their long, affectionate, but frequently Dave-interrupted marriage. Things take an alarming turn when, on his own a thousand miles from home, David finds himself the unsuspecting passenger in a stranger’s car headed for the Florida Everglades. Later, when he takes his first solo Metro ride, we watch from behind a raised newspaper as the doors bang close and David disappears into a dark tunnel. When the doors open next, this young man’s life has been changed forever.

Parents of special needs adult children will relate to the utter fatigue of raising the differently-abled child and the world of expensive therapies and persistent evaluations which lead them to prickly finger-pointing between the sheets. When David dubs his doctors “professional strangers,” it becomes clear there is no magic pill to fix him.  As we discover along the way, none of this really matters. David, like any child, simply is, so his parents, like all parents, learn to just take it from there and move forward.

Read an excerpt »

The next morning found us back on the train, studying the maps of the city. Maps are everywhere you look inside the Metro, and David loves maps. Especially ones that tell him: You Are Here. It’s actually quite hard to get lost on the Metro, but somehow I had done it again. I didn’t realize it until we climbed out of the underground to surface in the morning bustle and stir of Judiciary Square. “I thought you’d like to see what’s above ground here, David.” As I spoke, he stared at my mouth, not my eyes, most likely missing the facial cues that might alert him to the snow job I was giving him. But with David, nothing is ever exactly what it seems. “You got us lost again, didn’t you, Mom.” We turned around and headed back down into the station. At the fare gate, David inserted his Metro card and passed easily through the turnstile. I stuck my card in, too, but it spit right out with a little digital alert that said Add fare. David and I were now separated by the turnstile in the pushiness of rush hour. “Dave, stay right where you are,” I said. “I’ve got to put more money on my farecard. Back in a sec.” The line at the farecard machine stood six deep. I fumbled around in my bag for my wallet. A dollar bill and four quarters. Yeah, that should do it. I looked back over my shoulder to gesture to David to be patient — and he was gone. Vanished. I raced over to the turnstile and pushed against it, straining to pick him out of the crowd. The stationmaster appeared at my side. “Ma’am, you can’t get in without a farecard.” “But my kid’s gone ahead of me. You gotta let me in.” “How old is he?” asked the guard, a middle-aged black guy with bushy gray eyebrows. “Twenty-one, but . . .” His concern transformed into a scoff. “Ma’am,” he said, hiking up his pants, “you can’t get in without a farecard.” “My boy doesn’t know where he’s going. I’ve got to get to him.” The stationmaster shook his head. “Sir. My son is autistic.” The man looked at me with a blank expression. “He’s, he’s …” Ah, damn. How do you explain the cognitive buckshot of autism in the time it takes a child to disappear? With each second stealing David further away, I had no choice. I resorted to the shortcut word that everybody knows. It was the wrong word, a throwaway word, but it meant something and was the only word that could get me what I needed right now. And that was David. With my conscience shrieking, Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! I looked into the stationmaster’s eyes and said, “My son is retarded. You have to let me go find him.” “Tell me his name,” said the guard. “I’ll make an announcement over the PA system.” “See, that’s just it. He’d never pay attention to a stranger’s voice — only my voice. Please …” The guard took my elbow and led me to his kiosk. He reached through a window, pressed a button, and withdrew a microphone. “Make it short,” he said, holding the mic up to my face. “Tell him to return to the fare gate.” I leaned toward the mic and an enormous voice I didn’t recognize jumped out of my throat. “David, it’s Mom,” I said. “Come back to the fare gate.” The words quivered and, still holding the mic to my mouth, the stationmaster said, “One more time.” “Come back, David. Come back to where you started.” This time the words flew over the crowded train platforms and ricocheted off the steel rails. Disregarded by most commuters, they were plain enough to grab one young man’s attention, wherever he’d gotten to. And then he was there. Undamaged and unconcerned. “Hey, Mom” was all he had to say. There was nothing for me to do but to shake it off and get back on the train. The stationmaster approached us and handed me something: a pocket map of the Metro system. “Just in case your mother gets lost again,” he said to David. Then he keyed open the fare gate and, with the gentlest shoulder pat, eased me through.”

glen-finland's picture

One of the best things in life is to have someone tell you a story. Stories matter because they bring human faces out of the shadows. This is the story of the summer I taught my tall, dark, and autistic adult son David to ride the subway--solo--and in the process, he taught me to let him go. Now I'm only a mother but I can tell you stories.

About Glen

Glen is the author of Next Stop: A Memoir of Family (March 29, 2012) AmyEinhornBooks/Putnam.  A former reporter and now a teacher and freelance writer, she received her MFA from American University in Washington, DC. (...

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Published Reviews

Apr.30.2012

One minute Finland has you rolling with laughter (when she tells the story of asking her son to take the wheel as she frantically takes off her black socks so he can wear them for his job interview) and the...

May.01.2012

Glen Finland has written a memoir of wonderful insight and emotional honesty about her fearsome love for her autistic son, David, who seeks to move from adolescence into adulthood in a world that doesn't...

Author's Publishing Notes

Next Stop: A Memoir of Family - Amy Einhorn Books Published by G.P.Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. - New York. 2012.