Friesen Press (2018)
Reviewed by Kimberly Luyckx for Reader Views (11/18)
The most unique quality of this book is its perspective. “It’s About Luke,” by Gwenyth Snow centers on one main character, Luke Poole, whose brother, David, has a severe form of cerebral palsy. The story focuses on Luke’s point of view so that we can experience the trials and tribulations of a younger sibling growing up with an extremely disabled family member. Each chapter calls attention to an aspect of David’s disability and how it directly affects Luke’s own behavior and daily responsibilities.
Luke, David and their mother are nearly destitute and have no father to help support their burden. With a full-time job, Luke’s mother is stressed and places more responsibility on and expects more maturity from Luke than is typically required of a young boy. Although many children feel slighted and jealous when the attention shifts to another sibling, Luke is extra frustrated by the lenience and comfort granted to David when he causes trouble. Eventually Luke comes to realize that it is the difficult nature of the situation that guides him to life’s greatest lesson.
Author, Gwenyth Snow maintains that this is a work of fiction. Yet, there are many details taken from the pages of her own personal account of caring for a disabled child. She is adamant, however, that her book not be labeled as a memoir. It is written to shed light on the how disability is generally understood and misunderstood by society. The author also advocates for parents searching for answers, camaraderie and support by sharing resources and the frustrations involved in acquiring assistance. She highlights the significance of having a good primary doctor to rely on but, in general, her story gives prominence to those that do the day-to-day care for their disabled loved one. And, how that level of care they perform is, medically and domestically, geared toward the particular needs of their child.
The characters are well defined. Mother, who is struggling financially, physically and emotionally with the circumstances, cannot catch a break. Her love for her children is paramount yet she feels weighed down by her role as mother, nurse and breadwinner. In her words, “I feel like I’m treading water with no land in sight.” But her reliable friend, June, throws her a lifeline many times in the story. Without June’s wisdom and assistance, this tale would be bleak. It is June’s compassion, calmness and clarity that often save the day for Luke, David and their mother. A slight quirk in Gwenyth Snow’s characterization is that she keeps the title “mother” going throughout the book even though she is using third person narration. It is almost as if the story ought to be conveyed in first person. The reason for the author’s method becomes evident as her tale draws to a close.
I have read many stories of families impacted by an ailment from an adult viewpoint. But I have never read one with as much emphasis on what a younger sibling would have to endure. This is a melancholy, yet joyful look at Luke’s perspective. As a ten-year-old, he wants to have fun, speed around the hospital halls with his brother’s wheelchair, make up silly games and risky challenges that they can experience together. His brother, David, responds to this, with the limited movement that he can muster, and they are, somehow, able to bond in the way that many typical siblings do. When the author gives David a voice, by revealing his gestures, facial expressions and vocalizations, it makes the interactions between the characters more interesting and believable.
Gwenyth Snow writes a compelling story with realistic scenarios that will make you wince and make you smile. You will fall in love with Luke and David. They, unlike the adults that swirl around them, are not consumed by worry about David’s condition or concerned with the consequences of their raucous behavior - they just want to experience the fullness of life as two brothers growing up together. Their story moves through time capturing the most remarkable aspects of a family dealing with extreme disability. The approach it takes has societal significance that is far reaching and thought provoking. “It’s About Luke” is a book that I can visualize being made into a movie someday with a cinematic ending that will definitely surprise.