Justuna’s Blog

The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson ; One family’s epic journey to rescue their son. Book Review:

Posted on: April 19, 2010

What do you do if your five year old autistic son is unresponsive to treatment yet inexplicably soothed by the rhythm of horses? If you are Rupert Isaacson and his wife, Kristin Neff from Austin, Texas, you take him to a country where horses are as essential as water: Mongolia. Somewhere in the mountains is the Shaman or Healer of the Reindeer people who may be able to heal this boy.

Kristin did not think she could do it. It was hard enough just getting through a typical day let alone going on a journey to the far ends of the earth. Despite all the concerns, barriers and hurdles the family got on a plane to Mongolia.

“The Horse Boy” is a record of that extraordinary journey, a gruelling, week’s long trek across the plains of Mongolia in search of shamanic help for Rowan, their only son. Plagued by inconsolable tantrums, chronic incontinence and severe dissociation, the boy is no one’s idea of a congenial travel companion; but as his parents endure discomfort, defeat and ritual floggings (“You’re not allowed to scream,” Mr. Isaacson warns his deep-breathing spouse). The family risk everything, their safety, happiness, future and sanity on an arduous epic horseback journey in search for a cure for their son Rowan.

Resolutely unvarnished and astonishingly intimate, “The Horse Boy” chronicles a couple in the most emotional and physical extremities.

The journey takes them to the shores of Lake Sharga or the Heaven Horse Lake. Legend has it that the first two horses, made by the Gods, emerged in this lake. The windswept beauty of the lake in surroundings so barren makes it appear like a mirage. They finally arrive at the Reindeer Peoples camp.

In trying to describe autism, his father tells the Shaman of the Reindeer People, Ghoste, how it was to have a child who seems to be not fully there, the neurological firestorms that would course through his body, the tantrumming, the impossibility of toilet training and feeling of being completely shut out. Ghoste performs the ritual and said that Rowan will be getting gradually less and less autistic till he’s nine. The family returned home with a completely different child. The dysfunctional behaviour was gone. His reading ability increased and he made friends. His social life was now like that of any other child! He learnt to ride a horse. Rowan is still autistic but relieved of the terrible anxieties and hyperactivity.

This book recounts a deeply personal, highly subjective and inarguably thought-provoking story of one family’s quest for a certain kind of peace. Autism is one of the most puzzling conditions and as a parent of a 12 year old autistic boy – life is anything but dull.  Rowan’s parents literally went to the end of the world to help their son with significant effect.

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5 Responses to "The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson ; One family’s epic journey to rescue their son. Book Review:"

I had heard of this book. What’s your opinion of the changes seen in the little boy? I remember reading a review of conductive education. The author felt it was the sense of pilgrimage to Hungary that was partly important. Just saw there is now a film of the book.

You are right, in a sense it was such an arduous journey which offered rich experience for the child and the family. He and his parents were pushed to their physical and mental limits.
The changes in behavior especially the toileting issue and the tantrums only reduced when the child met Ghoste. I was a little sceptical about charging 500$ for the session though. I won’t be traveling to Mongolia with our son anytime soon!! U

Welcome to the world of blogging Una. Really enjoying it so far.

Would you reccomend this book for a book club?

Thank you, I loved your post on food for book clubs and I did the roasted nuts when I hosted the club – they were a big hit as you promised.
I loved this book and I would highly recommend it.
Una

Una, I’m adding a comment to all BBC members blogs to say that our June book is ‘The Children’s Book’ by A.S. Byatt to post on the first Sunday in July. Our next book then is ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ by Barbara Kingsolver. Enjoy reading.

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  • Lily: Una, I’m adding a comment to all BBC members blogs to say that our June book is ‘The Children’s Book’ by A.S. Byatt to post on the first Sunda
  • justuna: You are right, in a sense it was such an arduous journey which offered rich experience for the child and the family. He and his parents were pushed to
  • justuna: Thank you, I loved your post on food for book clubs and I did the roasted nuts when I hosted the club - they were a big hit as you promised. I loved

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