From Barnes and Noble
The day Monica learns that her lovable, brilliant three-year-old son, Wills, has autism spectrum disorder, she takes him to buy an aquarium. It's the first in a string of impulsive trips to the pet store to buy animals as a distraction from the uncontrollable, crushing reality of Wills's diagnosis. But while Wills diligently tends to the growing menagerie, what he really wants is a puppy. And one Christmas, when Wills is six, Cowboy Carol Lawrence joins their family.
Like all dynamic duos, Cowboy and Wills complement each other perfectly. Wills is cautious, fastidious, and irresistibly tenderhearted. Cowboy, a rambunctious golden retriever, is overeager, affectionate, and impulsive. And from the moment Cowboy enters their lives, Monica sees her son step a little farther into the world.
Soon, the boy who could barely say hello to his classmates in kindergarten is sharing stories of his new "sister" Cowboy during morning circle. Children crowd around them at the park, and instead of running away, Wills, holding Cowboy's leash in his sweaty fist, proudly answers all of their questions. With Cowboy, he finds the courage to invite kids over for playdates, overcomes his debilitating fear of water to swim along beside her in the family pool, and, after years of gentle coaxing, Wills finally sleeps in his own bed with Cowboy's paws draped across his small chest.
Through it all, Cowboy is there, dragging him toward other children, giving him the confidence to try new things and the courage to face his worst fears. And when Cowboy turns out to need her new family as much as they need her, they discover just how much she has taught them — about devotion, about loyalty, and about never giving up.
Sometimes it's what you don't know to hope for that saves you. For Monica, her husband, Michael, and their son, Wills, salvation came in the form of a puppy with pale blond fur, chocolate brown eyes, a fondness for chewing the crotch out of underpants, and a limitless capacity for love.
(A quick apology…I read this book waaay back in January and then got further behind than a one-legged man in a butt-kickin’ contest. I adored this book and can’t believe I’m just now reviewing it. *Hangs head in shame……And, although I am terribly behind on reviews, I sometimes find it much harder to review a book that I love. I finished the last couple of chapters sitting on the counter in the laundry room so my family wouldn't see me crying like a little girl. It's easy, fun and, yes, maybe even a little mean, to be snarky and slam a bad book. But it's not simple to describe and evaluate a book as good as this one.)
I’m not much for non-fiction, and yet it seems like when I finally read a non-fiction book, I’m often surprised by how wonderful it is. Cowboy and Wills is one such book. Even though we see the struggles that this family go through, this book deals with it in an unflinching, straightforward manner, with humor and grace.
Over the next year, as Wills slowly navigated the preschool mine field of noises and messes and crowded hallways, my animal fixation persisted. With every new problem Will encountered, I bought a new pet. We now had six more hermit crabs and two more hamsters. I cruised Petcos the way drunks frequent bars.
I loved this book. Wills is shown to us as the adorable sweet little boy he is, a child on the autism spectrum. But Holloway doesn’t define Wills solely by his diagnosis. Rather than focusing on what Wills is unable to do, she opens the world for him in ways he can connect. Cowboy and Wills is a delight, as I suspect Wills himself is. (And it's a keeper, one of the permanent residents on my bookshelf). I loved Monica Holloway’s unflinching and wry style and thanks to Cowboy and Wills, I now have her first book, a memoir, Driving with Dead People on my Sony Reader.
(Review copy provided by Sneak Attack Media)