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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

{Book Review} THE FOG WITHIN by Nick Shamhart

Book Title: The Fog Within
Author: Nick Shamhart
Publishing Date: February 2013
Length: 237 pages
Source: Author in exchange for an honest review

Autism: a word that has so many meanings and variants yet, without a single source to blame, it is also a word which has been used so frequently as of late that it has also become nearly meaningless.
Autism is not a meaningless cause or concern for Megan Cooper. She calls it the fog because it is an intangible force that intrudes and affects every moment of her day, from childhood on through adulthood. “The Fog Within” is the story of Megan’s life. It is the story of autism as seen through her eyes – seen through a fog.

 This is another novel I've read this year that is extremely difficult to write a review. While I labeled this one "hard to read subject matter", it isn't really. Not like the other novels I read earlier this year based on true life events that included rape and suicide. It is difficult, however, because it's a subject that many are close-lipped about, although I see that changing greatly. It's difficult because it's something I see friends, who are now parents, dealing with. And while a lovely read, there is this deep well of sympathy for Megan, her brother, her parents, and you cannot help but to think of the people you know who are either classifed as being on the autism spectrum or are parents of children with autism like Megan.

The first part of this novel deals with Megan's childhood, and the entire novel is told from Megan's point of view. Nick Shamhart captures the frustration and sensation of being overwhelmed by the fog very well. A friend of mine once shared a video to explain how her child feels when in large party situations, school, etc. and we all teared up to know that somewhere in there is her child unable to communicate, being assaulted by sound and light and so many people. Megan says that she likes sleeping under her pillows, under her mattress because she likes the pressure and that immediately made me think of my friend when she was sharing about the "pressure vest" she has for her child for rougher days. I suppose those of you with dogs who are scared of storms can think of it as a thunder shirt. I liked Megan's personality -- she is feisty and since she is outside of the so-called social norm, she hits the nail on the head with the crazy things we do such as waiting for little ticks of  wand to do anything, to tell us when to eat instead of eating when we're hungry, etc.

As Megan develops more and moves into adolescence, you are there with her as she tries to figure out everything. She has such a sweet and simplistic way of saying what we're all thinking: why? That's weird. I smiled to see her move into adulthood, working at her zoo, taking care of fish at her apartment, and being gifted with a kitten for her birthday. When tragedy striked, my eyes welled up.

I think the foreword and the postnote from the author is touching. While based on his own experiences, his hopes for the future, this isn't his daughter's story. It's a story that can be applied to all children with autism, and their parents, and for those on the outside who can't really understand. I'm recommending this to my friends as something they might give to others / ask others to read. Poignant, sweet, and hopeful, this book was a wonderful way to finish my 2013 reading. 

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