Reaching One Thousand: A Story of Love, Motherhood and Autism by Rachel Robertson
Firstly, I read Reaching One Thousand because I’m the mother of a child with learning differences, and love another child with autism. I think there are many of us out there that love someone who is a tad different to others. Is this enough of a reason to read this book? No, it’s not, but if you enjoy beautifully crafted writing about someone’s life, then there is another reason.
Robertson’s writing is superb. Her fiction and essays have been widely published. Her essay ‘Reaching One Thousand’ was joint winner of the 2008 Calibre Prize and laid the foundations for this book.
When her child, Ben, is a baby, Robertson believes him to be eccentric. There is a charm to his eccentricity and she enjoys it, but she is aware that she is making excuses for him constantly. Eventually he is diagnosed with autism. The diagnosis and the acceptance of both herself as a mother and of her son is where the real pathos in this book begins. This is a crossing all us parents must embark on at some stage, and Robertson depicts this wonderfully, with determination and skill.
What resonated for me were her stories of explaining Ben to schools, health officials, psychologists, friends and family. When you have a child that is atypical, you are continually interviewed about your parenting and your child’s significant developmental moments. Robertson’s strength is that throughout these examinations she also questions her own life, and even her right to write about her son in a public forum.
Reaching One Thousand is an ode to being a mother, to family and to accepting that we cannot do a damn thing to change our children that are different, but we can make sure that their path is clear.
Christine Gordon is the Events Coordinator for Readings and is a committee member of The Stella Prize.