The First Word – Isley Robson
This book was free in the Amazon Kindle First offer one month and, even though romances are very much not my preferred reading, I got it…mostly because there were no other books that month that even vaguely interested me.
I’ll admit that hardly sounds like a glowing recommendation for a book but it is why I downloaded it. The premise of the book didn’t exactly fill me with optimism that I would like it – a love story which also included an autistic child made me start to think of other books I have reviewed which I did not enjoy. So it sat on my tablet for a while and then last week I loaded it up out of bored curiosity.
The beginning of the book didn’t do anything to make me think the book was going to appeal to me – it starts with an occupational therapist, Andie, being head-hunted by the father of one of her clients who is ridiculously wealthy. He wants her to come and become a live-in therapist for his autistic son because his son has just spoken his first word, the therapist’s name. It’s the sort of thing that makes some people (like me) want to throw the book – the whole first word business, the ridiculous idea of a live-in therapist, the obscenely wealthy and quirky genius man… Except I tend to read on my tablet and it would be expensively to go lobbing that about every time a book annoyed me so I kept reading.
Tom paused, looking abashed. “There’s something else. Three days ago, Will spoke his first word. It was quite clear, and he’s said it a number of times since.”
“That’s great!”, Andie cried, her heart leaping at the enormity of the breakthrough. “But what does that have to do with -”
“It was your name, Andie.” Tom raised a beseeching gaze to her face. “The only word Will has ever said in his life is your name.”
So after quite a rocky start, the book does get better. It never really ends up in the realm of “can’t put it down” for me but it ends up being reasonably solid with a few things that let it down. On the plus side, the way autism is spoken about throughout the novel is quite well done. Will’s needs regarding sameness and his sensory needs are well discussed and these are linked to his father, Rhys’s, behaviour who may or may not have Asperger’s.
“You’re just like Will”, she told him, her eyes flashing gold and green. “With your bare feet and your hot-sauce habit, you’re definitely a sensory seeker”.
Unfortunately it does then fall back on the age-old ‘autism = really intelligent’ false cliche, where of course Rhys discusses the many people with Aspergers who work in his company (and are all very clever and good at their jobs) and then Will does something with bath toys that demonstrates just how clever he is as well. Despite the fact that savant level abilities only exist in a minority of autistic people, they seem to be present in the majority of autism portrayals in fiction. Along a similar vein, I do not know enough about bipolar disorder to say whether the individual in this book with the condition (Rhys’s ex-wife) is written accurately or not.
About a third or half-way through the book, Will’s autism takes a figurative backseat and the love story (and sex scenes) take centre stage. I am not a big fan of romance/erotica books so it’s likely that the main focus of this book was not for an audience like me. There were some interesting scenes as we unravel the reason behind Andie’s familial conflict and constant self-doubt before everything is resolved with a glowing, fairy-tale ending.
So overall, I wouldn’t say this book captivated me and I do think that is in part because all of the romance stuff just didn’t particularly interest me. I know this book is the first in a series and a quick peruse of the author’s website indicates that the next book in the series will include a woman with tourette’s so I may watch out for that and see how the author’s writing progresses.