Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Truth Can Be Stranger Than Fiction

"Father's Day, A Journey Into the Mind & Heart of My Extraordinary Son" by Buzz Bissinger   Houghton Mifflin Harcourt   242 pages  $26

Gerry and Zach Bissinger are twins, born prematurely, (Zach weighed one pound, 11 ounces) separated by only three minutes.  The three minute gap will come to represent a world of difference in them.  Gerry grew up normally; Zach is what used to be called an "idiot savant" meaning someone whose brain capacity is diminished in some significant manner, but the individual proves to be brilliant at such as being able to name the day of the week for any date in the past.  Memory tricks?  Photographic (eidetic) memory?  Still unknown. 

"Savants" as they are called today are often thought to be presenting with high-functioning autism. 

The plot, such as it is, is that the father determines to get to know his now-adult son better.  So he decides the two of them will take a road trip from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. What happens next has amusing moments.  Dad installs a GPS in the car and the son, feeling snubbed, won't talk to him.  The son's expertise is in reading maps and a GPS is thus a direct insult.  The son gets a quiet revenge when old Dads can't follow the GPS lady's instructions.

There's perhaps a little too much hand-wringing on the father's part -- the "Where did I go wrong?" type of wail.  At the end though the father recognizes that character transcends intellect.  His son is a man of great character despite being a little too bluntly honest from time to time.  This book gave me an in-depth look at what it would be like to have to deal with someone with brain impairment and was valuable in that respect. 

No comments: