This week’s read: A Friend Like Henry by Nuala Gardner
Full title: A Friend Like Henry: The Remarkable True Story of an Autistic Boy and the Dog That Unlocked His World.
Short review: Highly recommended, particularly for anyone who enjoys narrative nonfiction. A Friend Like Henry presents an honest picture of Nuala Gardner’s struggle to help her severely autistic son unlock his world and the retriever puppy who literally proved himself a golden key.
I won’t give away any more of the story here. This book is narrative nonfiction at its best (and in some places, its most moving) and I don’t want to spoil anything for you. Nuala Gardner writes in a way that almost made me forget I was reading, as only the best narrators can do.
The book begins in Dale’s toddler years and jumps backward briefly before resuming a linear path. Golden Retrievers are not short-lived dogs, and the book covers the entire period of Henry’s life with the family, as Dale grows from a preschooler to a young adult. As the title suggests, Henry’s impact on Dale is almost miraculous – and I only say “almost” because I have witnessed animals’ healing power firsthand.
Ms. Gardner is honest about her struggles, as well as Dale’s, which adds another dimension to the book. It is not just the story of Henry and Dale, but Nuala’s story as well, and that of her husband and extended family. Her voice is clear and compelling, and I strongly urge everyone to pick up this book. If you don’t understand autism, and particularly if you do, you will find it more than worth the read.
Available via Amazon in paperback and Kindle edition.