Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Book Review: Finding Neema by Juliet Reynolds

On the jacket:

Honest and unsentimental, yet funny and compassionate, Finding Neema is the story of an autistic boy from the eastern Himalayas, brought up by the author and her husband, a gifted Indian artist.

Set against the backdrop of the art world in India, and interwoven with reminiscences of her own unusual life and marriage, Juliet relates a compelling story: the couple’s unplanned adoption of Neema, son of their maid, Poonam; their endeavours to have his autism diagnosed and treated; and Neema’s emergence into adulthood as a valuable – though still dependent – human being. The book also delves into Neema’s background and tormented early life with his dysfunctional family, thereby touching upon some of the more lurid aspects of developing world poverty and introducing into the narrative an assorted cast of characters, some appealing and some appalling, but all of them colourful. Poonam’s story of abuse, self-destruction and faltering redemption – at once poignant and astounding – forms an important strand of the book and is related with special insight and frequent exasperation. Not only does the author tell a story of autism quite unlike the many already told, she also places it in an Indian and South Asian context.


Reading Finding Neema was a revelation. About relationships, human nature and so much more. The book talk about Neema, the author's maid's autistic child, whom the author and her husband later adopt. More than being about Neema, it is about why Neema was the way he was. The book talks about his mother, Poonam - a story of self-destruction, of a girl married young in life, who falls in love with another man and elopes with him only to find life isn't as rosy as she thought it would be.

Then came Neema, his mother Poonam's second child, first from his father. An assortment of characters, all of who bring a new light to human nature and human reactions, the book also talks about autism in ways at least I haven't read before. Webbed smoothly in a story, Finding Neema is was an emotional read. It made me weep at times, at others, it made me anxious. Thought provoking, to say the least, the book, is a serious read which I would highly recommend.

Rating: *****/5

[This review is for Hachette India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

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