3 Stars Out Of 5
Good Story, but with some problems
January 6, 2013
As one of my closest friends is the adoptive mother of a child diagnosed with Asberger syndrome, it was with great interest that I read the description for D'Ann Rennerâ€˜s novel Dancing from the Shadows. A successful businesswoman gives up her career to mother two adopted children from Bulgaria, one of whom is diagnosed after adoption with autism.
What I Liked
Ms. Renner's storyline pulled me in and kept me wanting to finish it even though at times it was exhausting reading. Living with a child anywhere on the autistic spectrum brings great challenges to the parents and caregivers, and I feel like she created and portrayed that life very well. I wanted to encourage the mother, spank the â€˜normal' daughter, and defend the family to those who failed to see their own lack of mercy (not that I am any better at times).
What I Didn't Like
The punctuation and formatting on this novel kept jarring me out of the story, not enough that I couldn't continue reading but enough to sometimes be annoying. The use of semicolons sometimes created fragments, and multiple times sentences were broken up with a â€˜hard break' into two lines. This seemed to happen far more frequently after the initial 135 pages.
The author also liked to break up conversations in a way that was awkward for me. For example, from page 170, a scene with, I believe, eight people:
Looking at her face, Tori imagined Maggie licking her chops.
"Tell us how concerned other parents are!"
Donna raised an eyebrow.
"I never mentioned other parents."
"Why, Maggie," Tori said. "Surely, as assistant pastor, you're not spreading rumors?"
This paragraph breakup of what people were doing and saying made it difficult at times to figure out who was saying what. I recognize this is probably more of a style preference, but three or four times I found myself going back several sentences to try to figure out who was speaking.
At one point, the author included email traffic between the mother and others. Sometimes the emails would start out "To:" and sometimes they would start out "From:". This was confusing and I wished Ms. Renner would have simply always done one or the other, or perhaps included both the sender and receiver in the emails to make it more clear.
I wondered why the author included one drug and one therapy that were fictional. With all the treatment options available, both through typical doctors and alternative therapies, I didn't understand why she went created these.
I will mention that I know from other reviews that some felt the author was preaching about various therapies, medications, etc., or perhaps crossing into a non-fiction book on what to do for your autistic child. While I can see where they are getting this, very little of it felt over the top. If I were completely ignorant of autism, I think I would appreciate the detail Ms. Renner includes. With my current knowledge, I didn't mind reading through it. While, I suppose, a bit here or there felt more informative than fictional entertainment, the sections of research and explanations did not bother me as a whole within the book.
Finally, I had some issues with the end of the story and would have preferred it ended about 50 pages sooner. Not only did it feel like the end was the forced on the characters by the author, it had other issues like a character speaking while on a respirator in the hospital.
The Bottom Line - 3 stars
Despite my seemingly short list of things I liked against the long list of things I didn't, overall it was a novel worth reading. Although grammar problems normally irritate me, the style and punctuation issues I mentioned are largely balanced out by the story and great characters.
If you want to know more about life with an autistic child, if you want to gain empathy for those who deal with this on a regular basis, or if you want encouragement from a mom in the trenches who battles the system, and sometimes her Heavenly Father, then you may want to check out this book.
DISCLOSURE: I received a printed copy of this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and I was not compensated nor asked for a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."