Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cowboy & Wills by Monica Holloway

Warning: If you read this book, you will be reduced to a sobbing mess by the end.

Cowboy & Wills by Monica Holloway is a charming memoir about Holloway's son, Wills, who has autism, and the pets that she buys to cope with the hard times that come their way. The Cowboy of the title is a cute little puppy that the Holloway family acquires about halfway through the book. More on her later.

I'm often a little skeptical of books about autism. I'm not looking for stories of parents who have found a cure or miracle treatment against all the odds. That goes against my personal mission to raise my autistic son as a proud, autistic person. I was happy to discover that this book is not that. Instead, it is a lovely story of the friendship between a young autistic child and his dog.

The book starts with Wills' autism diagnosis and the tailspin it sends his mother into. Holloway manages to describe her love and hard work for her child with humor and self-deprecation. Her acquisition of hamsters, hermit crabs, rabbits, and other small pets is an obvious coping mechanism, but one that I found endearing. I like animals, so it was fun to read about another mom who obviously does as well and who sees, like I do, the joy they can inspire in a child.

There is a lot to love in this book. While Holloway obviously struggles with her son's autism diagnosis, her attitude of acceptance is wonderful. My favorite passage in the memoir comes about two-thirds of the way in as she writes about her son:
"...I wouldn't change one freckle, one misunderstood moment, one tiny piece of him for anything in this world. I would change myself. I would change the things that other people said or thought out of ignorance or fear. I would change so many things, but I would absolutely never, in a million years, change him."
This is the kind of woman I can get behind.

Cowboy is introduced as a friend to her son, one who helps him make friends and experience love. She is not a perfect dog and causes more than her fair share of trouble, but she becomes a vital member of the family.

Not everything is wonderful however. I'm not going to ruin anything here, but suffice it to say that Cowboy is not the healthiest dog in the world. Holloway takes you on the sad journey through vet visits, treatments, and the emotions behind caring for a furry family member who is not well.

I meant it when I said you're going to cry. But if you're like me, you will also laugh and enjoy this lovely book.

Honesty Clause: I received a free review copy of Cowboy & Wills. The paperback version sells for $15.