“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx
For as long as I can remember, the bargain book tables at the local bookstore seemingly sense my presence and call out to me, displaying their wares with cocky effulgence, regardless of my feigned indifference.
It was no different the week following Christmas. Coffee in hand, weaving between sticky children, tired mothers and impatient workers, I was finding it difficult to locate a tome expressly requiring my attention. Having all but given up, it was not until I was about to exit and brave the Canadian cold, that a book caught my eye. Sitting quietly amongst it’s table-mates, The Spark drew my attention with it’s brightness and descriptive subtitle; ‘A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius’. Turning to the flyleaf bearing the book’s brief summarization, it took less than 25 words before I knew this was the one: ‘Kristine Barnett’s son Jacob has an IQ higher than Einstein’s, a photographic memory, and he taught himself calculus in two weeks.’
From beginning to end, the words within the memoir pulled me in and didn’t let go. The primitiveness of a childhood rife with the obstacles of autism reflected well within the simplistic yet accurate writing as seen through a mother’s eyes.
Diagnosed at a very young age, Jacob demonstrated many of the eccentricities seen within children of the autistic community. With his genius allowing him to excel, placing him outside the normal spectrum of the disorder, the argument could be made that today Jacob no longer reflects what is considered typical of autism therefore making the title somewhat misleading. Yet I find this is a story written not to focus on labeling constraints but rather on the powerful changes brought about due to a mother’s tireless love and refusal to accept limitations put on her son.