The Boy in the Moon by Ian Brown

Winner of the 2010 Trillium Award

Winner of the 2010 B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction

Winner of the 2010 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction

Finalist for the 2010 Governor-General’s Award for Non-Fiction

A Globe and Mail Best Book – 2009

A Coast Best Book – 2009

An eye Weekly Favorite Book – 2009

As a journalist for The Globe and Mail, Ian Brown has built a reputation for bitingly honest and in-depth reporting. The Boy in the Moon is his memoir on raising his disabled son and the circumstances that surround it and come from it. This is not the usual type of book I read but my expectations were very high when I picked up this memoir; it had beaten out Anne Michaels, Alice Munro, and Margaret Atwood for the 2010 Trillium Prize, no small feat. My expectations were not only met but were greatly exceeded. Brown weaves an incredible roller coaster of a narrative about his son Walker with a great coherency that is so often absent from a memoir.  The Boy in the Moon would rival any thriller or action story as a fierce page-turner.

The central figure in the book, Walker Brown, suffers from Cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome, often shortened to CFC; a very rare genetic disorder with roughly around 100 confirmed cases worldwide. CFC affects many aspects of a child’s life: the sufferers have physical deformities, it causes cardiac and intestinal problems, and it also causes developmental delays. One thing that is focused on very heavily in the book is just how little is known about this disorder. You will never find two CFC children who are alike and have the same disabilities. Throughout Brown’s journey we are exposed to the sometimes frightening routine of day-to-day life for a parent of a severely disabled child, how the system tends to shirk their responsibility of helping the families of those children, various support systems around the world, Walker’s eventual move into a group home, the lives of other CFC children around the continent, and the science behind the disorder.

Ian Brown’s prose are truly superior to what I am used to seeing in this type of piece. This book is written with literary yet accessible language. You are immediately absorbed into the joys and nightmares of this family’s experience. Page after page is filled with revelations that someone like myself has never really had to contemplate; whether it is the difficulty in getting a small government grant to purchase necessary medical equipment, the huge struggles to find an adequate group home, or the story behind the legendary L’Arche communities around the globe you feel what I believe the author wants you to feel. In looking through the book for a few passages to make my point I couldn’t narrow it down to one or two; every single paragraph is filled with wisdom that can only be gained through the hardships and joys that the Browns endured.

At first glance different people may make different assumptions about this memoir. In the end I look at this book as two things: first it is a tale of hope, of how this broken child, disabled because of a slight spelling mistake in the massive human genetic code, brought so much happiness to everyone around him; second this is a book about how the Canadian social system can so easily, and frequently does, fail the families of special-needs children. Great literature in my opinion should leave a lasting impression on the reader. There are only a few pieces that have that incredible ability to change the reader, change their outlook or their perspective on certain issues: “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” by Alice Munro, The Diviners by Margaret Laurence, and Let Us Compare Mythologies by Leonard Cohen were really the only literary works that I could genuinely say had this affect on me; The Boy in the Moon by Ian Brown is without a doubt now on this list.

Cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome

4 responses

  1. I really want to read this. Thanks for the review!

  2. I love this article and the Q interview. My son requires 24/7 supervision too. I relate strongly to what Ian Brown speaks and writes. It is very true that the process of rising to the challenge exceptional individuals like Walker and my son present, we are stretched into developing otherwise dormant human capacities that are innate in each of us. There is a deep paradox at work here. These difficult, challenging people may be essential to the evolution of our individual capacities and therefore of humanity and civilization as a whole.

    How do you get communities to embrace this radical idea? You invest in organizations who develop and deliver creative educational programs that in essence provide safe, public social opportunities like the kinds the Alexander Society for Special Needs does.

    1. Thank you for your comment. My wife works as an autism assistant with young children so I have to hear about the difficult struggles every day. I have great admiration for people like Mr. Brown and yourself for the dedication and love that you give to these extraordinary children.

  3. […] The only hard part about today’s challenge is which one to recommend….if I can only recommend one, it is Ian Brown’s The Boy in the Moon. […]

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