Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Book Review: Mozart and the Whale: An Asperger’s Love Story

Mozart and the Whale: An Asperger’s Love Story, by Jerry and Mary Newport, with Johnny Dodd, is a sometimes hilarious, often heartbreaking, but ultimately inspiring story of a couple who never really fit in, until they met each other. Jerry Newport is the author of several earlier books, and he’s been quite active in the Asperger community, even starting the support group where he met his future wife.

Both Jerry and Mary Newport relate the stories of their own difficult childhoods, growing into adults who struggle with relationships, underemployment, and social isolation. Jerry’s portrayal is engrossing for many reasons, not the least of which is his unique way of viewing the world through numbers. In spite of his mathematical genius, Jerry struggles to find a career that uses his skills in any way, and frequently has to make a living through less challenging jobs, and admits to having no concept of how to relate to women.

Mary’s story is less typical, and often truly tragic. So often, Asperger’s is thought of as a male diagnosis, and women on the spectrum are overlooked. Mary Newport, as so often happens with Asperger’s women, does manage to have relationships, although they fall into the realm of dysfunctional, often abusive, and sometimes bizarre.

The framework of the book, and the real soul that makes the story so is compelling, is the couple’s relationship, their struggles to connect and understand each other, and their commitment to support each other and grow. They often don’t fit the norms society may expect, but Mozart and the Whale is inspirational.