Saturday, 18 May 2013

Louder Than Words by Jenny McCarthy

I couldn't put this book down! I wanted to read the book because my neighbor of several years has a boy with autism. I was hoping to get an idea about what it's like for her to raise him. This book didn't do that because my neighbor boy doesn't have it as severely. I am grateful for that. However, it may be because she puts in the work to make life as normal as possible for him. This book gave me an idea about that work involves.

While some mothers recognize traits of autism almost from birth, Jenny McCarthy watched her son begin to regress around at the age of 2 when he began to have seizures. Reading how her wonderful little boy became a zombie right before her eyes was absolutely heartbreaking.

One thing I love about Jenny is how bold and honest she is. She didn't clean up her language to make herself look better. She didn't pretend to have all the answers. She didn't leave her son to be fixed by the medical industry alone. She admitted mistakes and wrote about the toll having an autistic son took on her marriage.

The way she never stopped searching for answers and helping her son recover was nothing less than heroic. For that the book deserves five stars. Hell, having the courage to write this book also deserves five stars.

However, if I was the poor mother of a child not recovering from autism, I think I would hate this book.
At the beginning of the book Jenny was treated by the hospitals like any other mother in America. She was bossed around by no nothing doctors who put making money over the proper care of patients. She was just like the rest of us parents. I would be giving the staff hell too if that was how I was being treated. (Actually I have when my son laid bleeding from the head and patients with less severe afflictions were seen before him.)

Partway through, Jenny McCarthy stopped being like other average mothers.

No mother I know could drop seven thousand dollars in an instant to fly home or buy tickets for a private jet so they can come home every night. They can't buy a $5000 heart monitor  The mothers I know don't have the money to go to the best doctors in the country. Most of them barely have the money for the medical care of a healthy child, much less a severely ill child. They certainly wouldn't have the money for all the therapy and alternative treatments Jenny was able to give her son. I would bet you even if they have good insurance it wouldn't cover these alternative treatments.

She was able to afford his top of the line treatments even after divorcing her husband and having to pay him half her income in alimony! (I would also love to hear his side of the story.)

There's simply no denying Jenny's son recovered "in the window" because she was able to give her son the best treatment money can buy. I learned a great deal about autism, the causes, and the treatments but I want to read a book by a parent who is like me. I want to read about what it's like for an average parent or better yet, a below average parent, to have a son with autism.

I don't deny that Jenny McCarthy has done a tremendous service to the autism community by writing this book and advocating for autism awareness, but surely she is aware other kids don't recover from autism because their parents can't afford the best care.

At the very end of the book Jenny adds a disclaimer. My child was lucky. Your child may not recover as well as mine did. At no point does she ever admit this is because her son had opportunities average kids do not have.

I was curious to know if this was just my opinion or if it was shared by others. It was defiantly shared by others. Here are some other people who feel the same on Amazon:

"However as a non-celeb mom trying to find ways to deal with autism and not go bankrupt in the process, I had a hard time identifying with Jenny's journey since she seems to have a lot of money to put towards her son's treatment."

 "I wonder if Jenny could appreciate the challenge facing other parents with autistic children, who cannot afford a nanny to help out, who cannot afford intensive therapy, who may have been kicked off their medical insurance plans. Now that would be an interesting follow-up book."

"Unfortunately Ms. McCarthy, not EVERYONE has millions of dollars they can spend on medical expenses. I felt this was a slap in the face to all the other parents who live with an autistic child that cannot afford to buy expensive foods, dietary supplements, or treatments."

"She loses rapport with her intended audience by highlighting how much she can spend on him."

I could add a dozens more comments just like these.

Also, the fact that she kept asking "Why doesn't the medical industry tell you about the risks of vaccines, about the possible causes of autism, and how effective alternative treatments are?" I kept expecting her to put two and two together to make four but it never happened. It's all about money! If the medical doctors tell people that their child can be cured with diet or that not all kids should get immunizations they are going to lose millions of dollars in profit. Jenny McCarthy is a smart woman but her failure to make this connection was just stupid.

Overall the book was a page turner and for that I want to give it five stars, but I just can't. Jenny McCarthy's son's recovery from autism was the exception, not the rule. In the end, I can only give itPhotobucket.

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

It's rare that I watch the movie before reading the novel but I love Bradley Cooper so much that I rented the movie from Redbox a few days after it came out. I also am a widow so was anxious to see how that was portrayed. (For some reason, even after seeing the previews dozens of times I never realized it was Jennifer Lawerence.) I had the book on hold at the library and was hoping it would become available sooner. Instead, I got the book the day after the I watched the movie. Another thing that rarely happens is that I liked the movie much better.

The Movie
Because I saw the movie first, I've decided to post my movie review first. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawerence were the perfect actors for the roles of Pat and Tiffany. Both of them are so damn cute and charming, even when they are acting like psychopaths you can't help but like them. I also loved Robert De Niro's character. The mom was a busybody and pretty annoying but had she not been the hilarious moments between Tiffany and Pat may have never happened.

I love this movie because it is about the recovery of two mentally ill people. It's so rare to see movies about people getting better. Usually they are about how they went crazy. At the same time, I was frustrated by the lack of background information on Pat. I was even more disappointed that Tiffany's story was barely told. But I absolutely loved the characters. They both wanted to get better. It's nice to see a movie where someone sincerely wants to recover from mental illness.

One thing made me tremendously respect the movie was the moment when Pat says he was tested for bipolar disorder but it was inconclusive. As someone who also has had inconclusive tests for mental afflictions, I felt like cheering when I saw this. Those of us that suffer from mental disorders don't always get clear cut diagnoses. Even though it was just a movie, it made me feel better knowing I'm not the only one who doesn't know exactly what is wrong with me.

I thought the dance competition and betting storylines were cute and entertaining but I was a little disappointed that the movie took such a silly turn when it was about something as serious as mental illness recovery. I understand ultimately this was a romance movie but I wish it had kept a more serious tone throughout the entire story. I loved how the movie ended and both Pat and Tiffany deserved so much to get their "silver lining."

Overall I loved the movie. So much so I bought a copy of it. My rating is a solid Photobucket

The Book
Sigh...the book. The book was depressing. Like others I hated the way Pat was immature at times, referring to his separation from his wife as "apart time" and just overall being unable to behave like an adult. But like the movie, Pat is completely earnest about recovering from his mental illness and that makes you root for him.

If I thought Tiffany's story was barely told in the movie, it was told even less so in the book. But I loved how she stalked Pat and would run with him everyday just to be near him. The funny exchanges between Pat and Tiffany weren't funny at all in the book though. In the end, Tiffany betrays Pat and renders herself completely unlikable. Thank goodness the movie didn't follow this storyline!

I do wish in the movie they had kept the other dance competitors as being teenagers like in the book. I think that could have made for some really funny scenes. I did like that Pat didn't remember being in the mental institution for years and slowly recovered his memory throughout the book. He can't remember why he is mentally ill and it isn't completely revealed until the end of the book. 

This will be a spoiler, but in the book, Pat's wife never actually makes an appearance. Pat is absolutely convinced they are going to get back together no matter what happens. He also beliefs his life is a movie. At first it's endearing but when it's clear Pat is unable to accept reality it's just really sad and frustrating to read about. Tiffany takes advantage of his lost grip on reality.

My favorite part about the book was the story of how Pat and his father recovered their relationship. This was highly touching and was really the only thing that kept me reading to the very end. While I liked how the book took a more serious approach to Pat's recovery, at times it was just too sad and depressing.

The blurb at Amazon describes it as "Matthew Quick’s heartwarming, humorous and soul-satisfying first novel." Honestly, it just wasn't that funny. Especially when you see how the humor was portrayed successfully in the movie.

Another thing that absolutely enraged me about the book was that Pat kept giving spoilers about the ending's of classic novels. I plan on reading The Great Gatsby next and was uber pissed that the author, Matthew Quick, thought it would be okay for Pat to complain about the ending! He did this about other classic novels as well but not ones I plan on reading. Also it's just really gimmicky and lazy to write about other books in your book. 

Overall the novel was just okay. This novel didn't make me smile like the blurb said it would. It just made me feel depressed. Photobucket