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Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism Hardcover – April 1, 2014

4.8 out of 5 stars 220 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Mr. Suskind displays virtuosity in capturing the intimate realities of life in a household dominated by autism, where the disorder shapes the life of every family member.”
—Judith Warner, The New York Times

“Life, Animated is the author's amazing memoir of his family's 20-year, struggle to connect with their autistic son. This is the book that readers who have no one in their lives affected by autism and who would otherwise never it pick up should definitely read. Eyes will tear. Hearts will cheer. In these pages, Owen is every reader's son.”
—Don Oldenburg, USA Today

“Ron Suskind's "Life, Animated" is an extraordinary saga of an exceptional boy from a remarkable family and their compelling journey through autism.”
—David Royko, Chicago Tribune

The book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind is a fierce love story. It is also one of those fascinating medical stories that show doctors have no monopoly on knowledge.
—Mark Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Reading Suskind’s factual yet moving account of the devotion, love and energy put into helping Owen will leave readers wondering if they could do the same. This is a wonderful book, whether or not you know a person with autism.
—Amanda St. Amand, St. Louis Post Dispatch

About the Author

RonSuskind isthe author of four New York Times bestsellers and the criticallyacclaimed, A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City tothe Ivy League. His other books include, Confidence Men, The Way of theWorld, The One Percent Doctrine and The Price of Loyalty. He was the senior national affairs writer for The Wall Street Journal,where he won the Pulitzer Prize, and is currently the Senior Fellow atHarvard's Center for Ethics. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., with his wife,Cornelia Kennedy.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Kingswell; 1 edition (April 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1423180364
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423180364
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (220 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Because Ron Suskind and his family have opened up their lives to scrutiny and done unbelievable work reconstructing Owen's life course with impeccable detail, I hesitate to even write a review. How can one review a family's struggle with heartache and the direction they take to help their child succeed?

If I could give the book 4.5 stars, I would. 5 for the story and, unfortunately, 4 for the writing. Ron Suskind is perhaps my favorite writer. And, I had the wonderful opportunity to see him speak. It was something I will always remember. I downloaded the Kindle edition in the middle of the night when I saw that he had written a book on a topic that has dominated my life for at least the last 30 years. Unfortunately, the writing is repetitive and overly detailed in Disney phenomena and quotes, It also has way too much philosophizing and overly bold assertions about stages of childhood development. It could be cut by a third and be a more captivating and powerful book. I felt that perhaps the author was so personally invested in the story that he got lost in the weeds. I was also wondering what happened to all the editors who had a hand in the book.

Despite my hesitation, I would still like to address the content. I have raised 2 high functioning autistic sons. I also discovered in my 50s that I, too, had some form of autism from birth. There is so much written about the manifestations of autism. Some of it is so inconsistent that it is often difficult to see how it holds together as a single phenomenon. I am impressed that Mr. Suskind clearly captured the quintessential agony of autism, loneliness and yearning for friends. I have never seen this sadness expressed clearly in the vast literature I have embraced over the years. It is like finding a friend who gets it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Even though several friends sent me the link to the NYTimes article excerpt of this book, I didn't want to read another book about autism. I've read so many since my son regressed into autism 12 years ago; what more could there be to learn from yet another story? What may be "uplifting and inspiring" to some makes some of us feel even more depressed that we haven't managed that same level of success.

But then I saw the author: Ron Suskind. Ron is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist/story teller, and I love his other books. For him [a former classmate (UVA, Class of '81)], I was curious to learn about his son who disappears into autism by age three. I was interested in learning how his parents coped (&/or helped him &/or made peace with his condition). Maybe I could learn some clues to help me better parent my own son.

And the NYTimes excerpt was intriguing, though I was already jealous that Owen could understand Disney plots. But it was interesting how Ron and Cornelia figured out how to use Owen's Disney video obsession to reach him, building on Disney stories to help him express his feelings and navigate similar difficult situations in "the real world." Or, as we say in therapy-speak, help him "generalize" the Disney lessons.

Personally, I'm often out of energy to do the sort of work they've done; my son has quit noticeably progressing and puberty has created a whole new set of challenges. I went back to work full-time to create a college fund for our typical daughter (We've already spent more than 5 years' of college tuition on therapies, doctors, special diet, etc. for our son; but for all our efforts, we are still unable to hold a real conversation with him--not the kind Ron can have with Owen.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Owen Suskind learned to relate to his family and eventually other people, trusting and revealing deep empathy of his own, by programming his young mind with Disney animated classics. By studying the characters' hyper-expressive faces and memorizing their tones of voice, he built a working vocabulary he could eventually extemporize with to express his own ideas. Then over the years he continued watching them, sifting every phrase, every gesture, for nuances of meaning and truth to apply to the people he knew and the situations he faced.

I think Owen's story is inspiring not only because of the implications for how parents can help their autistic children (observe their passions and then let them go all out with those, and fully participate with them in those, to build on strengths for acquiring language and other life skills), but also because his methods of piecing together meaning for his life is similar to how most of us do it but just on a more deliberate, miniscule, painstaking scale.

There are highlights in this book that go way beyond heartwarming or being merely instructive by example because the author Ron Suskind has shared not only the triumphs but the heartaches and anxieties that life constantly throws into the mix. It is great to see how Owen's struggles truly shaped his family into becoming better people, especially his older brother Walt, who shares one of the greatest insights in the book: that Owen was not a blessing in disguise, but a blessing in plain sight.

For parents of autistic children, a book like this helps you feel not so alone in your journey, and it gives hope while also acknowledging how long and arduous the road will be.
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