February 23rd, 2008


On Vox: Dear Gabriel is gentle and unusual

Dear Gabriel
Halfdan W. Freihow
Dear Gabriel is a memoir of the author (Halfdan Freihow) and his autistic son. Together, Gabriel and his father (along with his mother, sister Victoria, and dog Balder) live on the edge a of small Norwegian town, almost north of the tree line.

Unlike For the Love of Anne and some other nonfiction parent-child stories about autism, this is not the saga of a struggle to overcome the problems of autism.

This book intersperses descriptions of the harsh yet beautiful Norwegian scenery with episodes from the life of father and son. Most of the scenes take place over a few months, although a few flashbacks recount earlier stories, such as when the author and his family first moved from Oslo.

If you are familiar with autism, it will seem that Gabriel is high-functioning. He is able to go to school and seems to communicate a lot verbally. During his treasure-hunting expeditions with his father, playing pirate, it is easy to forget he is autistic. Until the next scene in which he might start screaming inconsolably.

His parents (at least his father - the mother is barely mentioned) is tender, sensitive, and loving. This book could almost be about any tender father-son relationship.

This short book is a quick enjoyable read. I recommend it to anyone interested in autism, to people interested in the non-tourist areas of Norway, and to fathers and sons.

Originally posted on mmarques.vox.com