I can't remember when or where I first saw The Horse Boy, but I know I'd had my eye on it for a while before it showed up on Barnes & Noble's website on sale. Right now the ebook is only $2.99, so I went ahead and bought it — and devoured it in less than two days.
The Horse Boy is about Rupert Isaacson's efforts to get through to his autistic son. He noticed early on that Rowan seemed to have a direct connection to animals, and that in fact, his symptoms were less severe when he and his father rode the neighbor's horse. Later on, he also noticed some major improvements when they spent some time around African shamans, but Rowan immediately started regressing once they returned home. These observations got Isaacson started thinking about taking Rowan to Mongolia, where he could spend time on horseback and visit shamans to be healed.
Isaacson is a great writer, and retells the story of their journey, from Rowan's birth until the aftermath of the trip to Mongolia, in a way that demonstrates Rowan's slow progress. Having worked for many years in preschool and after school care programs, and even with a few special needs kids, I could see the improvements in Rowan's language and play throughout the course of the book. It was fascinating, and although I'm not sure whether I believe it was the shamans who healed him, there was obviously something about this trip that produced some monumental changes in Rowan's behavior and his ability to process sensory input from the world around him.
Although horses play a fundamental role in the story, they are almost more the setting than the focus of the story. Still, I enjoyed the book very much, and delighted in many of the descriptions of the horses and horse people who made their appearances within its pages. In fact, it had possibly the best description of horses that I've ever read: "One end where the money goes in, the other end you got to pay people to take it away, and in between an accident waitin' to happen." So true!