Book Review: Beyond Rain Man by Anne K. Ross

beyond rain man

When my son was first diagnosed with autism nine years ago, I went to my local bookstore in search of help. I was looking for books that would tell me how to deal with the sensory eating issues, the grocery store meltdowns, the head banging incidents that left dozens of holes in our drywall. I wanted to know how to get my son to talk, to make friends, to play with toys instead of spending hours staring at a piece of string.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I didn’t need an instructional manual. I needed to know that I was not alone, that there were people out there who knew what I was going through as the parent of a child with autism, and above all, that my family and I would survive. We would figure out all of those things that I was so desperately looking for, and we would, in time, adjust to our new version of reality.

While I was enduring this phase of post-diagnostic angst, psychologist Anne K. Ross was going through experiences that she would later capture in the pages of a wonderful book. Beyond Rain Man tells the story of a woman who, having devoted her life to helping children with developmental disabilities, was thrown for a loop when her son was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome.

With compelling bravery, the author tells the story of her son’s childhood. She describes his struggles, the tears and the triumphs, and the ups and downs of the relationships within her family. As an autism parent, I can relate to so many of the stories Anne tells in her book: the impact of her son’s Aspergers on his younger brother, the challenges of keeping a marriage healthy when there’s so much going on, and the endless concerns about the future.

I do not feel as if I read a book. I feel as if I sat on a couch chatting with the author over a cup of coffee, learning about her experiences and how she and her family got through them.

If time travel was a thing, I would toss a copy of Beyond Rain Man to that earlier version of myself who was desperately searching bookstores for answers. I would make the book magically appear in front of her, and I would tell her that this is the book she needs to make her feel less alone and more hopeful.

Kirsten Doyle was given a copy of “Beyond Rain Man: What One Psychologist Learned Raising A Son On The Autism Spectrum” by Anne K. Ross, in exchange for an honest review.


Book Review: Grace, Under Pressure (Sophie Walker)


Being the parent of a child with autism can be a very lonely experience. Discovering that your child has a lifelong disability is a bit like being catapulted from your life into a kind of parallel universe where you don’t know what any of the rules are. You have to navigate the confusing maze of government funding and services, and at times you – and your child – are at the mercy of the whims and moods of the people who make decisions about what supports your child might qualify for.

As you wander helplessly in your parallel universe, not knowing where to turn, you might suddenly feel a hand in yours. Sometimes it will be a hand that gently guides you in the right direction. Sometimes, it will be a hand that reassures you, that lets you know you are not alone, that there are others in this same parallel universe who know what you are going through.

Reading Grace, Under Pressure by Sophie Walker had that effect on me. I started reading the book during a time when life seemed to be conspiring against me, and as I immersed myself in the story, I felt as if the author had taken my hand to keep me company through this journey.

Sophie’s life and mine have some strong parallels. Like me, she is the parent of a child on the autism spectrum, and running has been a salvation for her just like it has for me. Both of us run to raise funds for autism, and both of us live with the challenges of parenting a neurotypical child alongside a child with special needs.

In Grace, Under Pressure, Sophie tells the story of her life with her daughter Grace, who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Through wonderfully crafted narrative, we are taken through Grace’s early childhood, the struggle for answers and support, and Sophie’s evolution as a marathon runner. We get a balanced look at the ups and downs of special needs parenting, and the blood, sweat and tears of distance running. We see the laughter, the tears, the desperation, and the gut-wrenching relief when the light at the end of the tunnel finally comes into view.

This is a book about so many things. It is about a brave, bright little girl finding her way in a world in which she is different. It is about the unwavering dedication of a mother to her child. It is about the perseverance of an athlete striving to reach new heights.

Above all, it is about courage and inspiration, and the idea that no matter what, we should never give up hope.

Sophie WalkerAbout the author: Sophie Walker has been a journalist for over 15 years, reporting on events in such places as London, Iraq and Afghanistan. She lives in London with her husband and two daughters.

For more information about Sophie Walker and Grace, Under Pressure, please visit

Many thanks to New World Library for providing me with a review copy of Grace, Under Pressure. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.


Book Review: I Run, Therefore I Am STILL Nuts!

My sports medicine doctor once told me that runners are his least favourite patients.

“It’s nothing personal,” he was quick to add. “It’s just that rehabbing you people after an injury is impossible. You never listen to instructions, you just go out and run long before you’re ready to, and then you’re back here ten days later wondering why your injury has flared up.”

I have to admit that my doctor has a point. We have a very special kind of dedication to our sport, runners do. If our training program calls for a 20km run, then we will do a 20km run, even if the Weather Network is warning motorists not to go out because of a blizzard. We take pride in the incredulous looks we get from people when we go out in mad conditions, we wear our black toenails like badges of honour, and we are slaves to our Garmin watches.

If you can relate to this, you will love Bob Schwartz’s hilarious book, I Run, Therefore I Am STILL Nuts! The author writes about his experiences as a runner, from injuries to races, from trying to force encourage his kids to run with him to giving in and getting a dog instead. All through this book, I was nodding along knowingly and gaining little insights into the slight insanity that the partners of runners have to live with. I’m sure my husband appreciates the new-found awe with which I regard him.

You don’t even have to be a runner to appreciate this book. If you live with a runner, know a runner, or simply get frustrated with races messing up the traffic where you live, you are sure to get a kick out of reading this. The easy reading and laugh-out-loud humour are supplemented with delightfully funny artwork by B.K. Taylor.

Runners and supporters alike will get more than a good laugh out of reading this. Interspersed among the humour are little snippets of wisdom. Thanks to the book, I now know how I might be able to achieve the all-important Runner’s High if an injury prevents me from running. I have a new appreciation for the sheer simplicity of running, and for the first time I realize that runners are more than a little obsessed with the concept of time.

I also take pride in the fact that I am part of a tribe that can claim to be truly nuts.

(Review copy and image of cover kindly provided by Human Kinetics).

Book Review and Giveaway: Running Ransom Road

My sports massage therapist once told me that “all runners are the same”. Apparently, we all have a dedication to our sport and a streak of stubbornness that makes it very difficult for the medical gurus to rehab us after an injury. I’m sure that’s true to a large extent: I once twisted my ankle one kilometre into a planned 15K run, and instead of hobbling home and plunging my foot into a bucket of ice, I ran the remaining 14K, because that’s the distance that was on my training schedule for that day.

For all of the qualities that we share, runners are actually very individual. We have our own style, our own strategies, our own odd little rituals. Most of all, we all have our own reasons for running, be it weight loss, general health, competition, fundraising or stress relief.

Caleb Daniloff started running in order to deal with his past.

As a young man, Daniloff spent several years blazing a trail of personal destruction, failed relationships, and substance abuse. His days started and ended with alcohol, and he frequently woke up in the morning with gaps in his memory from the night before. For a while, his life seemed pretty bleak.

But where there’s life, there’s hope, and Daniloff succeeded in knocking his addictions on the head and turning his life around. Roughly a decade after he had his last drink, he ran his first marathon.

In his compelling memoir, Running Ransom Road, Daniloff describes how he traveled from city to city running marathons, revisiting the places where he wreaked the most havoc. Over eighteen months and many agonizing miles, he confronted the demons within and faced his past head-on.

The book includes fascinating accounts of Daniloff’s early years, which included several years in Russia and a meeting with the President in the Oval Office following the family’s return to the United States. It tells the story of destruction and redemption, despair and hope, apathy and determination. Above all, it is a tale of courage and triumph.

The smooth narrative of this book makes it easy to follow, as the author skilfully interweaves accounts of his marathons with snippets of his life.

Running Ransom Road is a story that will appeal to runners and non-runners alike. If you are looking for inspiration or simply a good read, this book is well worth your while.

I have one copy of Running Ransom Road to give away to a reader in Canada or the United States. To enter, just check out the magic Rafflecopter below. The winner will be contacted within 48 hours of the giveaway ending. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 (Cover image, review copy and giveaway copy kindly provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Book Review: Running for Women

I often tell people that I run because there’s not really anything to it, at least from a skills point of view. My hand-eye coordination is terrible, and my aim is so bad that I wouldn’t be able to hit a barn with a tennis ball from two feet away. With running, I don’t have to do any of that. All I have to do is put one foot in front of the other and make sure I don’t trip over any pumpkins (almost happened once).

Running is just running, right?

Well, no. Runners can be sliced and diced in many different ways. Fast runners and slow runners. Heel strikers and mid-sole strikers. Sprinters and distance runners. Road runners and trail runners. Old runners and young runners.

There are all kinds of books out there that tell you how you are “supposed” to run. They give advice about nutrition, training programs, how to run up hills, how to prepare for races, and much more. While the information contained within these books can have a lot of value, it is highly generalized.

There is one book, however, that addresses the differences between two very distinct groups of runners – men and women.

We all know that men are generally faster and stronger than women, but most of us don’t give much thought to the reasons for that. Is it just that men have larger physiques and higher muscle mass? Or is something else going on?

In Running for Women, Jason Karp and Carolyn Smith delve into the science behind it all. This interesting book talks about the reasons for men’s generally superior performance, and how women can turn their biological differences into advantages. We also learn that in certain classes of athletic events, women may actually be naturally better than men.

Are you a pregnant or new mother? Are you an older, post-menopausal woman? Or perhaps a younger woman wondering how to effectively run at “that” time of the month? Have you been wondering about whether your diet is giving you what you need? Running for Women will give you some valuable pointers to keep you on the road, healthy and happy.

The authors are certainly well qualified to talk about these topics. Jason Karp is a running expert and sports physiologist who has coached some of the best athletes in high schools, colleges and clubs. Carolyn Smith  is a sports medicine physician and accomplished distance runner who has excelled in a variety of ultramarathon distances.

A word for the faint-hearted: this book is not light reading. It goes into a lot of scientific detail that requires some concentration to digest. But reading the technical stuff does lead to a much broader understanding of how a woman’s body works and how to maximize the benefits of having been born with two X-chromosomes. And if you’re like me and have a fascination with all things scientific, you will find this book hard to put down.

(Review copy of “Running for Women” and cover image provided by Human Kinetics.)


Book Review: The Art of Running Faster (Julian Goater, Don Melvin)

When I was given the opportunity to review The Art of Running Faster by Julian Goater and Don Melvin, I was hesitant. Although I have a passion for running and am on a permanent quest to be better at it, I have tended to find books about running to be a little dry. The books have contained good factual information, but they don’t make for easy reading.

Two pages into this book, however, I was hooked. Julian Goater, the primary author, is a former elite runner from England. The advice he offers in The Art of Running Faster is liberally interspersed with anecdotes from his competition days. He gives lively accounts of races that he and his contemporaries took part in: the book artfully combines instruction with storytelling.

Goater manages to give solid advice in easy-to-understand language without talking down to his audience. He strikes a tone that is authoritative yet conversational, and while the book does seem to be geared more towards competitive athletes, there is plenty of advice for runners of all levels.

A book like this one has to meet two basic criteria in order for it to be deemed a success. First, it has engage the reader and hold his or her interest. Second, the reader has to be able to follow the advice between the covers and judge whether or not it works.

The authors have unquestionably succeeded on the first count. The material is clearly presented, the topics are covered in a way that is both informative and entertaining, and each chapter concludes with a nifty point form summary of the main topics covered.

With the first criteria met, all I had to do was test out the content of the book. In doing so, I discovered three things:

1) The advice is clearly laid out and not couched in theoretical language. Julian Goater tells runners exactly what steps to follow in order to improve things like  form and hill running.
2) I didn’t have to get through most of the book before finding advice that I could act on. I was able to practice techniques I read about from the very first chapter.
3) The advice actually works. Since reading the book and using it to change various aspects of the way I run, my average long run training pace has improved by about thirty seconds per kilometre and I am no longer completely intimidated by monster hills.

This book has earned a permanent home on the “frequently read” section of my bookshelf. I have a feeling that I will read it many times, and each time I will get something new out of it.

In spite of its title, The Art of Running Faster is not only about becoming a faster runner. It is about becoming a better runner.

(Review copy and image of book cover kindly supplied by Human Kinetics)