Life, animated by Ron Suskind

Hi everyone, in this week’s post I will be reviewing an amazing memoir I read some years ago. The poignant and heartwarming take of love and family struck a deep chord within me and I would go on to recommend it to many customers and friends alike. I hope you enjoy my review of this read…

cover has light blue in different shades from top to bottom. bright light at bottom right corner and wispy clouds towards top. silhouette of man and child upside down at top edge. large letters in white and yellow in middle read Life, Animated. letters along bottom in black read Ron Suskind.
An engaging memoir

Title: Life, animated: a story of sidekicks, heroes, and autism

Author: Ron Suskind

Genre: Biography

Publication details: Kingswell; California; 2014

ISBN: 9781423180364  (Hardcover)

What this book is about: Can you imagine being trapped inside a Disney movie and having to learn about life, language, and emotion mostly from animated characters dancing across a screen of colour. You can’t, can you? Actually, it’s the real-life story of Owen Suskind, the son of Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ron Suskind and wife, Cornelia. Owen is also a boy with autism, which now affects one in every eighty-eight children. While America’s two million autistic people are just as diverse as the wider population, many possess a subtle weave of gifts and challenges that, year by year, are revealing underlying – and often unrecognised – capacities of the human mind. What the journey of this boy and his family powerfully reveals: how, in darkness, we literally need stories to survive. Owen’s story begins in his early years when he suddenly stops talking and can’t sleep or eat. His only solace: the Disney animated movies that he loves. What follows are a series of startling breakthroughs, as, for years, the family began to communicate with their youngest son in movie dialogue. Recite one line, he’d look you in the eyes and recite the next. But was he understanding? His parents dove down ‘Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole,’ as one autism expert said, ‘to rescue a child.’ but it soon became unclear who rescued whom, as they and their older son, Walt, literally needed to become animated characters, forced to contemplate the deepest meanings of iconic myths – the stories people have long told themselves to make their way in the world – just to keep up. At its core, this brilliantly crafted narrative isn’t about autism or Disney, though you’ll never view either quite the same, again. It’s the story of a family’s resilience when their world is turned upside down. It’s about perseverance and hope. 

My review: What an extraordinary biography!! Ron Suskind took me on a journey through his son Owen’s life. There were moments when I cried and laughed but mostly I was amazed at his and his wife’s perseverance to help Owen navigate his way in the world. Those ‘basement’ sessions watching Disney and finding Owen again was so touching and heartwarming. Suskind’s writing was both honest and realistic. Everything was there in black and white, no fancy jargon or superfluous description either. I truly loved this memoir and hope that young Owen has a wonderful future. We could all learn from people like him. 

Additional notes: Since publication a documentary was made under the same title, of Owen and Ron’s story in 2016 which I was privileged to gain a chance to view here in Auckland for an International Film Festival.  

My rating: 5 ⭐

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