Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Stolen Child

Thanks to Amy for recommending this book. I have never read a book on the changeling myth and I really liked the way it was developed here. As the mother of a child with autism, the idea of having your child stolen away and replaced by an imposter had particular poignancy for me. Having a child who seems healthy and "normal" transformed almost overnight into one who is disconnected and beseiged by bizarre behaviors can make a distraught parent entertain the possibility of the body-snatcher scenario. There is some evidence that indicates a link between the changeling myth and special needs children back in the days before such disorders had been scientifically identified and explained. Apparently, such children who came to be labeled as changelings were often abused, abandoned, or killed.

In "The Stolen Child", however, the parents accept and raise the changeling child despite their suspicions that he is not their true son. The story follows the stolen child and his changeling replacement through the years leading to the attainment of adulthood. One faces the ramifications of living a life he stole from another, while the other deals with the pain of learning to let go of what he has irrevocably lost and to embrace his new reality. Underneath the supernatural trappings lies the fundamental struggle of the misfit. It is a story that is often painful, sometimes disturbing, but ultimately optimistic as the characters succeed, not in eliminating their problems, but in finding ways to take control of their circumstances and move forward with purpose.

Keith Donohue is a great storyteller whose writing is believable and full of subtle insights. I will be interested in reading him again and wholeheartedly recommend this thought-provoking book.

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