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Eye Contact Paperback – March 14, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 72 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This is a difficult book for a reader. Fletcher has a clean, clear voice for the narrator and for Cara, mother of an autistic child who is found in the woods near the dead body of a retarded girl. But her other voices are unconvincing; they all sound so off that it's hard to distinguish autistic children and adults from those who aren't. Morgan, the boy who solves the murder, sounds like a deranged adult, while young Chris, who lures a teen bully into the woods, sounds like a peculiar man uttering short, jerky words and phrases. Although wrapped like a mystery, this is really a book about autism, about the numerous forms it can take, about parents who do or don't devote themselves to understanding and helping their children. All of this is genuinely interesting, but as a novel it's contrived. The children's interior monologues give the reader a glimpse into their thought processes, but are so detailed they don't ring true. (One child distinguishes between "mean" and "cruel" behavior-verbal vs. physical abuse.) The mystery is less compelling than the author's valuable insights into our "compassion, disdain, terror and pity" for these youngsters.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

McGovern's follow-up to The Art of Seeing (2002), centers on a nine-year-old autistic boy, Adam, who witnesses the murder of a classmate. Disturbed by what he saw, Adam retreats into himself, frustrating the police and worrying his mother, Cara, who has watched Adam's development with a nervous eye since he was diagnosed with autism. Cara is fearful of the effect the murder will have on her son, but she's also surprised to find the investigation dredging up her own past: the officer assigned to the case is the younger brother of her former best friend, whom she hasn't spoken to in almost a decade. And another old friend, who might just be Adam's father, has come back into her life. Tightly woven and gripping, this literary mystery takes several unexpected twists and turns as it builds to the resolution. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (March 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143038907
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143038900
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #923,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Cammie McGovern was awarded a creative writing fellowship at Stanford University, and has received numerous prizes for her short fiction. Her stories have appeared in many magazines including Glamour, Ladies Home Journal, Redbook and Seventeen , and she is the author of another novel, The Art of Seeing . She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts with her husband and three children, the eldest of whom is autistic. She is one of the founders of Whole Children, a resource center that runs after-school classes and programs for children with special needs.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As an inside look at autism and special needs families, McGovern's novel is a five-star winner. As a psychological thriller, however, it is painfully terrible. On a literary technical level, it is an enjoyable read. As a novel about female friendships, well, one must wonder what kind of alternate reality McGovern's personal friendships exist in.

The novel opens with a criminal mystery--two children have disappeared at recess. Hours later, the body of the girl is discovered, and the only witness to the murder is her autistic nine-year-old schoolmate Adam. The story is told from a half a dozen perspectives, but it is truly driven by Adam's mother Cara, a single mom who has devoted her entire life to raising her special needs son.

McGovern's characters either have special needs (autism, brain damage, social disorders, agoraphobia, and addiction) or have personal and professional lives which are consumed by such conditions. As a mother, Cara has shifted parenting philosophies during her son's growth, in a constant struggle between making him as "normal" as possible and admitting that letting follow his own innate preferences makes him the happiest. Do you ask the world to treat an autistic son as a normal child, or do you admit upfront that your child requires special accommodations?

In addition to her parenting experience, Cara had grade- and high school experience with a friend who was brain damaged as a result of a household accident. She has lifelong guilt and doubt about the way she related to her friend in their youth.

For all its strengths in explore the complex emotions surrounding disabilities, as a thriller, Eye Contact is a convoluted mess.
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Format: Hardcover
What a disturbingly beautiful book. I read this in one big gulp because the mystery was too compelling to put on hold. In that genre it reminded me most of Ross Macdonald, not because of formal qualities but because it was more about the mystery of relationship than the actual crime. As in her previous book, Cammie McGovern writes with tortuous brilliance about betrayal and love. At the heart of the story is the mystery of Cara's autistic child, Adam, but her broken friendships with Suzette and Kevin, which prefigure and establish the lifework of raising Adam, are equally compelling. If Adam is a mystery, so is Cara. She seems destined to have become the mother of this child, even though there's nothing divine or cosmic leading her down that path. Her interests, her failures, and her nature lead her to become a good mother and a detective of the human soul. Cara is a wonderfully flawed person, a richly reflective and loving mother and friend. She confronts the "autism epidemic" without much anger or rancor, perhaps because her choices have led her to be a single mother and maybe because she's learning what she needs to learn. I kept being struck by how well-equipped she was for loving Adam, even though she often feels inadequate and certainly is not as well-supported by her community as she might be. Like many protagonists she has a maddening tendency to go it alone. In the course of the novel she learns to rely on others, which helps her let Adam do the same. That's always good to see, especially given Adam's autism and her fear and isolation. The secondary characters are vivid and moving - especially the other children. Most of them are somewhere on the autistic spectrum, but after a while that seems like a meaningless distinction. The term differently-abled took on real meaning for me.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I am a lover of mystery novels, and Eye Contact more than fills my requirements for a satisfying read. The book offers a gruesome and unfortunately believable crime, humanly flawed characters, psychologically disturbing yet frighteningly normal suspects, and a realistic yet uplifting conclusion. Although I was initially drawn to Eye Contact because of the mystery element (which certainly kept me turning the pages eager to find out "who done it"), the mystery is not what sticks with me a week after finishing the book. Ultimately, Eye Contact is a book about parenting. McGovern's quiet and occasionally heartbreaking insights into the parent/child relationship take my breath away. Eye Contact captures the essential paradox of parenthood: loving our children for who they are within the limitations of who we are.
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Format: Hardcover
I found the portrayals of children with autism, PDD, Aspergers (although it's not named as such here), ODD and so on to be dead on in this novel---they were shown in a very realistic way, not as savants or fascinating puzzles or any of the ways they are often shown in books and the media. It was so nice to be able to read a book and see kids like the ones I know so well, in my family and at their school!

The plot, however, was a lot weaker. I think it would have been better had a lot less elements found their way into it! The side stories about Keven and Suzette just were a little much to take in, and there were even more minor plot events than those thrown in---side romances, family tensions from the past and so on. The central story of a girl's murder would have been enough to keep this compelling. There were more fake endings than a bad TV mystery---you could also tell it wasn't over after a while because there was so much more book to read! Also, the woods where the murder took place had an amazing amount of action on the day of the murder---they sound more like a busy street than a wooded area.

These are all fairly minor quibbles, however. I read the book eagerly through to the end, and would recommend it to both those with an interest in autism and those who like to read a puzzling mystery.
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