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Mozart and the Whale: An Asperger's Love Story Paperback – November 6, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The realization that "our community seemed to know more about the first twenty years of an autistic person's life than it did about the rest of that life" leads the Newports to tell their own boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-finds-girl love story—but with a difference, for both suffer from Asperger's syndrome. At times, this "terminal cluelessness" seems both the cause of and the least of their problems: Jerry's life "had drifted from one failed vocation to the next, [among them] pot dealer, horse-race betting fanatic, taxi driver, Goodwill bell ringer, bookstore cashier, elementary school librarian." Mary's more traumatic experiences included a cult marriage, abusive lovers and mental hospital stints. Both grapple with anxiety and despair before epiphanies: for Jerry, when he sees Rain Man; for Mary, when her brother directs her to the Autistic Society. Love for the two slips in the day they meet at a party for adult autistics. Then they experienced media fame, becoming "Mr. and Mrs. Autism" (a front-page profile in the Los Angeles Times; a 60 Minutes visit; an eponymous movie). Boy loses girl again in a divorce, but love triumphs. Along the way, autistic readers will find comforting fellowship, and general readers will acquire valuable knowledge. (Jan.)
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.

Review

"A fantastic voyage into two different kinds of minds. Absolutely riveting." -- Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation

"Readers will be touched and inspired by this book that proves that against all odds, love does occasionally triumph over all." -- Tucson Citizen
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; 1 Reprint edition (November 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743272846
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743272841
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,077,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on March 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Jerry and Mary were both adults before they learned there was a name for the way they were - Asperger's Syndrome - or "autism-lite" as Jerry dubs it. They met in middle age after a lifetime of no relationships (him) or destructive relationships (her), and their moving, painful and funny memoir starts out at their nadir - apart and suicidal.

But even as Jerry lies miserable, waiting for the 60 pills he took to do their job, he's distracted. "For an instant, I started to obsess about the number sixty, mulling over what an interesting number it is and how I never imagined I'd die because of it. Sixty is the product of 2 times 2 times 3 times 5. Sixty is the number of degrees of arc covered by the side of a hexagon inscribed inside a circle. Each side equals the radius, and the hexagon is made of six equilateral triangles linked together. Fold them all outside and you get six more, forming a total of twelve which makes a Star of David with one equilateral triangle for each tribe of Israel...."

Jerry is a numbers savant who aced an actuarial exam without the prerequisite education, but couldn't get through the interview. He's worked mostly as a courier and a cab driver. Mary is an artistic savant. Painting and music are her passions and she, too, has had a series of jobs, including cook and hairdresser.

Taking off from the lowest point, they alternate chapters, tracing their lives from childhood and the frustrations and loneliness they felt trying to fit in. Much of it is painful; attempts to cope with confusion and alienation, bullying from other children, intense family dynamics. But there are joyous moments of epiphany and accomplishment - usually alone. And there is humor throughout.

Their early relationship is wildly joyous.
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Format: Hardcover
Asperger's syndrome is one of the many branches on the gnarled and crooked tree called autism. People with AS tend to be highly intelligent or creative or both, but socially inept to an extreme (and, as this book shows, sometimes hilarious) degree. Some of them, like Jerry Newport, are savants who have the ability to calculate numbers and dates. Some, like Jerry's wife Mary, have prodigious artistic talents.

Jerry met Mary at a party for adults with AS organized by Jerry's Los Angeles-based group, AGUA (Adults Gathering, United and Autistic). He had attempted to fashion a whale costume expressing his adoration of Free Willy, and she arrived in the guise of Nannerl Mozart, the brilliant musician whose life was overshadowed by her famous brother. It wasn't exactly love at first sight, but when the two realized they both kept pet cockatiels it was sealed. A scant 20 weeks later they were married, both of them experiencing an exciting sense of being fully understood and intimately acceptable that had eluded them previously.

The book is written in tandem --- first Jerry speaks, then Mary, in episodes. It can become a little confusing even for the avid reader, because of its many time jumps and some repetitions. But if you were fascinated by the movie Rainman (as Jerry was, finding in it his first real affirmation), then you will want to take in the whole saga of Mary and Jerry.

Both had miserable childhoods filled with basic misunderstandings about how the world works and major rejections by family and peers. Of the two, Mary had "lived" most. Shunted away by her parents to a strict religious cult in mid-adolescence, she had two children and many lovers, lived in caves and deserts and the streets of San Francisco. Her only successful employment was as a piano tuner.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is an honest account of growing up autistic. The authors do not, as many authors on the spectrum do, attempt to force-fit their lives into some sort of mold. They describe their lives as they were, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

In doing so, they have made a book that's easier for me as an autistic person to identify with, than a lot of the books in which people fit themselves to a mold. I loved reading about Mary's increased trouble in school during adolescence, I had the same problem, and some of the same responses to it. While it was a confusing and horrible time in my life as far as my own experience of it goes, it might have been less confusing if I'd had a book like this at the time. If Mary Newport reads this, I want to thank her for writing about that.

I also like their unflinching looks at their flaws. The ability to look at oneself honestly without shying away from the bad parts is something I have admired, and wanted to emulate, for some time.

The most important thing that I got out of this book, more than the many complex details in the lives of the authors, was the honesty, the ability to tell it like it was to the best of the authors' ability. I am glad they wrote it, and glad to read it: It is a refreshing change from a lot of what's out there in the world of autism literature.
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Format: Hardcover
Jerry Newport and Mary Meinel Newport's Mozart and the Whale is an honest and engrossing account of two adults on the spectrum who meet, fall in love, and don't necessarily live happily ever after. This affecting memoir manages to be both bluntly candid and romantic: while the Newports clearly love each other, love is not at first enough for two such complex people. One of the most valuable contributions this book makes is its demonstration of the social and emotional learning that can go on well into adulthood, learning that makes the Newports' second try at marriage more successful.
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