When Schuyler Rummel-Hudson was 18 months old, a question about her lack of speech by her pediatrician set in motion a journey that continues today. When she was diagnosed with bilateral perisylvian polymicrogyria (an extremely rare neurological disorder), her parents were given a name for the monster that had been stalking them from doctor to doctor, and from despair to hope, and back again.
Once they knew why Schuyler couldn't speak, they needed to determine how to help her learn. They took on educators and society to give their beautiful daughter a voice, and in the process learned a thing or two about fearlessness, tenacity, and joy.
More than a memoir of a parent dealing with his child's disability, Schuyler's Monster is a tale of a little girl who silently teaches a man filled with self-doubt how to be the father she needs.
Yay!!! A shout of pure joy. That was my reaction, literally, when I learned that this book was finally on Audible. I first discovered Schuyler’s Monster in hardback shortly after its publication about a decade ago. Way back in 2008, there were still some independent bookstores, and the best ones put out little “Staff Picks” cards in front of certain titles to advertise staff members’ favorite selections. These little blurbs were usually in the employee’s own handwriting, and consisted of a few sentences explaining why they especially recommended this particular book.
Black Oak Books on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, California, is our setting. It was a gorgeous fall day, and I was in the city for some rare alone time without the kids after having lunch with an old friend in the Gourmet Grotto’s Epicurious Garden next door. The book’s gorgeous cover design (Schuyler, hands over her mouth as if stifling a laugh, surrounded by cascading alphabet letters) drew my attention, but so did the Staff’s Picks recommendation promising “a journey unlike any other” that would be sure to become an instant favorite of any reader who had “ever had a child, ever known a child, or ever been a child.” I picked up the book, read the unforgettable introduction, and was hooked. (The author had me at “Tyrannosaurus Rex.”) I bought the book, took it home, read it in two days, handed it off to my husband so he could read it, ordered five copies for friends and family and immediately began giving them away. Every friend who read it finished it within two or three days, as I had. Over the years I ordered many more copies and I always make sure to keep at least one copy at home and one or two copies at work to lend out to parents, friends, and other SLPs. I’ve made sure to keep up with the latest exploits of the author and his stellar daughter on Facebook and on the author’s fabulous blog, Fighting Monsters With Rubber Swords. Once I became an Audible member, I wrote to Audible periodically, requesting that the book be produced in audiobook format. The only time I wrote to Rob himself to ask when an audiobook might be expected, he wrote back saying something along the lines of “I think that ship has sailed,” but still, I never gave up hope.
And now I’ve been able, finally, to experience this journey again in audiobook format. I only wish I had known just a month or two sooner (way back when you could follow other reviewers on Audible, to see what people were reading) that it was here, so this review I’m writing now would have been emailed automatically to each of my 600 followers! Then more people could have discovered a new favorite. The writing is excellent, the story riveting and suspenseful, the author fully relatable, and the book just generally unlike any other. If I had to compare it to any other book, I’d say it comes closest to Lion/A Long Way Home, by Saroo Brierly...but a way jazzier, faster read, and with jokes. The narrator of this audio version is fan-frigging-tastic, absolutely first-rate, almost Sedarisian in his delivery, and a perfect match for Rummel-Hudson’s wry humor. I laughed out loud in my car many times; I cried along with Rob and Julie toward the end, during the Box Class chapter. Kudos to Rob, Schuyler, and everyone involved in the making of this book, and now, ten years later, this audiobook. If Audible ever restores the option of sending a particular book to one’s friends and family, I’ll send it to everyone I know and love.
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Schuyler's story, and that of her parents, will resonate with any family who has experienced the joy, fear, frustration, and triumph of faith that comes with parenting a child with special needs. Robert Rummel-Hudson is heartbreakingly honest in sharing their journey.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful