Thursday, May 24, 2012

Book Review: The Journal of Best Practices

The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband The Journal of Best Practices, A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband, by David Finch, is an entertaining and enlightening book. The author, upon realizing that his five year old marriage is in serious trouble, and learning that he has Asperger’s Syndrome, decides to methodically improve his marriage and be a better father as well.

Finch starts out his quest by attempting to fix his autism, then realizes that the issue is in improving the marriage itself. Finch takes on this task in a detailed and methodical way, attempting to figure out the rules of the big picture by painstakingly noting the patterns around all the details. He comes up with a list of changes he can make, not really changes in himself, because it is clear that his wife already loves him, but more changes in how he treats his family.

I enjoyed the humor in the book, as well as Fitch’s unswerving honesty in looking at himself. He repeatedly moves from cluelessness, where he isn't meaning any harm, although he might be causing a great deal of it, to understanding. I think this is a key insight for neurotypical partners to come to, and a good reason for them to read this book. With a disorder that makes it difficult to impossible to understand one’s partner’s feelings, the inevitable misunderstandings are not deliberate. It can be a lot easier for a spouse to forgive an unintended harm.

Because Finch really struggles to understand his wife's point of view, she remains quite a mystery to the reader as well. I found myself searching online after I finished the book to try to get a feel for her voice. At the same time, my experience of not knowing her is a useful sample in helping us neurotypicals understand for a moment what Finch experiences with his wife.

Tthis book can also be useful for individuals on the spectrum. The idea of being a caring partner can be quite an abstract goal. In my practice, I always try to move from the abstract to the concrete, and examples are a great way to do so. The examples in this book take the abstract ideas about being a good husband and father and bring them to life in a more concrete and useful fashion.