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When their young son Rowan was diagnosed with autism, Rupert Isaacson and his wife were devastated, afraid they might never be able to communicate with their child. But when Isaacson, a lifelong horseman, rode their neighbor's horse with Rowan, the boy improved dramatically. His father was struck with a crazy idea: why not take Rowan to Mongolia, a place where horses and shamanic healing intersected? The Horse Boy is the story of the adventure that followed.
All of this sounds perfectly nuts. But just wait just a dang minute, podner.... Arriving in Mongolia, the family found undreamed of landscapes and people, dispiriting setbacks, and surprising advances. It is a moving, truly one-of-a-kind story--of a family willing (and able) to literally go to the ends of the earth to help their son. Like many anecdotes issuing from Autismland like cannonfire, it raises questions which are at the same time positive, hopeful, troubling and just downright strange--but the journey is engrossing and informative.
"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 all 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 a realm 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
"In this intense, polished account, the Austin, TX, 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.)"--Publishers Weekly
"Everyone who is fascinated by the human-animal bond should read this totally engrossing book."--Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures and Animals in Translation
384 pages. 2010