Verdict: Exploring a family’s emotions and circumstances in facing the life-altering impacts of autism, MAKE A WISH FOR ME feels like LeeAndra Chergey’s heart laid bare, from the impact of Chergey’s diagnosis line ‘it feels like he’s died,’ all the way to the family’s hard-won progress as life goes on. Challenging preconceptions, this manages, somehow, to be both heart wrenching and heartwarming.
There’s something darkly compelling against ‘doom memoirs’, if only because of that inkling that – in contexts like the one surrounding MAKE A WISH FOR ME – the difficulty of the journey also carries some rich spiritual rewards and a tremendous sense of hope and survival.
Autism, rightly or wrongly, is widely seen as a nightmare diagnosis: it certainly makes, as MAKE A WISH FOR ME spells out, for some complex and overwhelming care conditions many of which are examined in emotive detail. Chergey doesn’t pull any punches: her line on first hearing of her son Ryan’s autism is ‘it feels like he’s died’, and the pain certainly seeps from the pages for the opening chapters.
But then Chergey comes through the other side, and for all the family issues and stacked up difficulties, there’s a sense of progress and positivity to what she writes. Enormously dedicated to her family, she nevertheless offers a cutting and brutally honest assessment of the rejections and the anger that come with her son’s day-to-day life.
Despite the difficulties, the book is also a tribute to the help Chergey and her husband found along the way, both the professional help that slowly transformed their son, and the more personal, emotional support that became vital. That support was hard to come by: frustration is a recurring theme, with red tape blocking or complicated many of the necessities (from education to treatment itself). Chergey and her husband battle valiantly against such difficulties, and clearly take so much from the wins. Substantial resources are dedicated to Ryan’s progress, the family unwilling to leave any stone unturned.
The style is somewhat bloggy: conversational, broken into relatively small passages, and accessible, emotional descriptions of everyday issues, happily tinged with the humor of a family that are fantastically resilient. Sometimes it reads almost like fiction – in that the ‘plot’ has real drive and intrigue – though perhaps the reality is easy to extract for a reader who has more direct experience of the subject. What stands out here is that hope is never lost; difficulties never allowed to take control.
I’ve passed MAKE A WISH FOR ME to a friend closely linked with autism, who says it resonates deeply, in the struggles, the goods days and the bad, and the elation of small victories. He also found it tough at times, in that it brought the harshest moments flooding back.
Not a casual read, then; this is a deeply emotional experience exploring the inner conflict that comes with raising a child on the spectrum, and it will punch against the soul at times. The chapters are short, which is a blessing when it starts to cut. For all the rawness and the glance behind the curtains of such everyday struggles, anyone with an autism spectrum connection – or simply and interest – would be hard pressed to find a better companion.
~James Hendicott for IndieReader