Everything She's Ever Wanted

His Brother's Gift
by Mary J. Forbes
(Silh. Spec. Ed. # 1840, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-24840-7
Asperger's Syndrome is a form of autism that is on the rise and it is clear from the depth in this novel, that the author did her homework. As is often the case, two parents dealing with their child's disability is often heartbreaking. Forbes has done a good job of balancing the reality with the optimism and has allowed the child's disability to be a part of the romance. However, this type of book may not be for everyone. It is, however, a very nice love story.

His Brother's Gift refers to two different things. Ten years ago, Will Rubens went to a fertility clinic and donated his sperm so that Elke, his brother Dennis's wife could conceive a child since Dennis was infertile. Despite some poor feelings between the two, he was proud to help Dennis achieve his dream of having a child. The second reference to the gift has been delivered now by a lovely woman who is that childís caretaker. The child is Christopher, a ten year old boy with Asperger's Syndrome Disorder. The caretaker is 40-year-old Savanna Stowe, who was Elke's best friend and special ed consultant to the family. Elke and Dennis are dead, having just died in a plane crash outside the village in Honduras where they were living and working.

Will is just over 30 and is seen by all in Starlight, Alaska as a free and easy bird - literally - because he is a pilot who flies tourists to parts of the Alaskan wilderness that canít be reached otherwise. Will had one serious relationship and returned to Starlight after his fiancee was killed by the gangs she was trying to help in East L.A. He has sworn off relationships but not flings. He is however, more serious and responsible than many let on.

Savanna is nine years Will's senior and has been active in the Peace Corp since she graduated from college. She became interested in children with disabilities and has been working as a behavioral consultant with Elke and Dennis for years. Dennis's will left Christopher to Will, providing he was willing to take him on. If he didn't, then he went to his godmother, Savanna.

Savanna and Will are opposites. The sparks fly immediately when they are in the room. But the barriers are many - Christopher being one of the primary ones. Will has no clue how to help him, yet is determined to do right by his brother and his son. Savanna wants Will to succeed on the one hand, but has no clue how she is going to give Christopher up since she has grown to love him like a son. Other barriers include their ages (Savanna's hang-up) and Will's independent nature.

This story is rich in detail. Alaska is painted as a paradise in the spring. That was a little surprising, given the mention early on about Chris not liking to wear coats. It is also hard to read about Chris's reactions and responses to issues. Having a personal background in working with persons with developmental disabilities, I cringed a few times at the descriptions of his behavior. Knowing a person and accepting their limitations is different than reading about things most people will find troubling. I acknowledge this may be my personal bias.

Will and Savanna are good together and interact like adults, something I find refreshing when it occurs. There are some plot twists that are a tad on the sentimental side, but for the most part, the love story is engaging. The story has a nice pace and is very readable.

His Brother's Gift has the luxury of two good leading characters, a bit of education about a pertinent topic and a child who is lovable despite his problems. And it stars the great state of Alaska to boot.

--Shirley Lyons

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