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Autism, a timely topic receiving recent media attention, is more than the social awareness topic-of-the-week to the author of Faraway Child. Amy Maida Wadsworth has written a story that will touch many hearts. Writing about one of the most frustrating disabilities parents may have to face, she brings to life the trials and triumphs of a young mother with an autistic daughter by drawing heavily on her own experience as the mother of an autistic child.
Jen Young likes everything neat and orderly in her life. She tries to be a perfect wife and mother, but her efforts aren’t rewarded with noticeable success. Her husband loses his job and her effort to help with family finances turns into a disaster. Other members of their ward avoid sitting near them during sacrament meeting, strangers glare at her in stores, policemen give her a second look, eating out is a distant memory, and Jen finds she has little contact with friends or extended family. When Marie was born four years earlier, Jen had felt she was on her way to the perfect life she’d dreamed of, then two years later Kaye was born.
Kaye is a beautiful, blonde, blue eyed two-year-old who turns Jen, Adam, and Marie’s life upside down. She throws violent tantrums, screams relentlessly for no known reason, doesn’t sleep through the night, doesn’t reciprocate feelings for her family, and creates a scene wherever they go. Jen’s visiting teacher suggests the child is autistic and Jen is livid. She’s certain Kaye is just difficult and going through a phase.
Eventually Jen and Adam have to face the truth that something is terribly wrong with their younger child. They agree to testing and the whole process of learning about autism and facing life with an autistic child begins.
This is a story of shattered dreams and the accompanying wavering faith and denial that travel side-by-side with major disappointment. It is the story of the extreme stress placed on family relationships by an unexplainable situation. But it is more. It is the story of a woman’s courage and a mother’s determination to give her child a chance to grow and learn. It is also a story of renewed faith, a faith that grows stronger than ever before. For the reader, this book has powerful messages concerning educating ourselves to difficulties around us, being nonjudgmental, providing service and understanding to others, and walking in faith and obedience.
Faraway Child is a powerful book. It is different from Sister Wadsworth’s previous books, which were both romantic adventures and complete products of her imagination. It quickly becomes obvious that Wadsworth is drawing on her own experiences, fears, and love for a child who is different from others in this new release. The characters, particularly Jen and Kaye, are well developed and realistic. The plot moves more to acceptance and understanding rather than to resolution, but it holds the reader’s attention. It doesn’t always work for an author to draw heavily on personal experience in creating fiction, but in this case it does, giving the reader glimpses of the emotional upheaval autism wreaks on the family that is faced with this disability. Wadsworth doesn’t use her own experience only, but backs up her experience with solid research, both medical and personal drawn from other families.
Readers looking for a novel that will keep them on the edge of their seat or biting their fingernails, won’t find it in this story. Neither is it the kind of story that brings romantic sighs. Faraway Child is simply a story of faith and growth, that will make the reader dig deeper inside himself to know and better understand the part compassion and faith play in God’s plan. It is one of those books that is not easily forgotten.