I have generally not been making posts about the books I listen to, but Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury struck a chord in me that I must talk about.
The story is centered around a child who is diagnosed as autistic at the age of three. The diagnosis tears apart his family and separates him from his best friend Ella. Fast forward fifteen years to when Ella and Holden are seniors in high school. They reconnect in spite of the fact that everyone else things Holden is regressing. Side plots include a set of bullies and some orchestra kids, Ella’s family troubles, and Holden’s father. Through it all, Holden’s steady faith in God proves to be the key to changing the world around him.
At first the book struck me as interesting because it is the story of a movie which plays a big part in another of Kingsbury’s books. The second part that struck me was the portrayal of autism. Some of the characters truly believe that Holden can come out of the silence he has been in since he was three, and this is evidenced even more so by the way that Holden narrates some of the story. Also it was interesting to ponder the idea that the actions which his teachers labeled as autistic actions could be explained by events in his past. For example, he reveals that the reason he flaps his arms is that he’s praying and the bursts of push-ups when agitated are because his father told him push-ups would make him a man. While I don’t know what it feels like to be autistic, the way in which Kingsbury allowed Holden a voice gave dignity to his character when most portrayals of autism are only from the outside looking in. (Books autism keep coming on my radar without even trying. See my other recent reads Best Boy and In a Different Key if this topic interests you as well.)
This book turned out to be much more emotional than I had planned. Most of the time I listen to audio books while I doing something else, which contributes to the fact that I don’t make posts about them, but this book stopped me dead in my tracks at one point. I refuse to spoil the plot, so I will only say be prepared for an emotional moment when a character unexpectedly dies.
Other good parts of the book: the story of Beauty and the Beast plays a major role; entire scriptures are quoted; it is referenced in another book as a movie, so does that mean a movie might happen?
While the audio version was well done, this is a book I may pick up as a hard copy if I come across it again at the right time. Karen Kingsbury remains one of my favorite Christian fiction authors.