It can take me a long time to read a book these days. Sometimes it’s because I’m busy occupying myself with other activities. Mostly it’s due to the fact that I seem to struggle to pick one book and stick to it. It might be time to make some personal resolution in order to change that, and picking up a new routine in the coming weeks might enable me to find that task easier (meaning: I’ll be commuting again, but not driving, as well as taking an hour-long lunch break, rather than a rushed 15 minutes).
But I digress. It’s taken four months – almost to the day – for me to conquer this book (and, in fact, that’s far quicker than the embarrassing 18 months I spent on the author’s previous offering), but I’ve made it.
The Long Ride Home follows on from The Horse Boy, and if you’re in the UK and have heard of neither, it’s possible that you read none of the national or equestrian press: before I went abroad for the summer, The Long Ride Home was being promoted heavily by author Rupert Isaacson, and I’m reliably informed this didn’t let up all summer. In fact, the books are still getting coverage now – I spotted Horse and Countryside magazine at the weekend because I recognised one of the pictures from the book on the cover, and the current issue of Your Horse states that an interview with Rupert will appear in the next issue.
When I finished reading The Horse Boy, I naively thought that things had come to a fairly happy ending for those involved, but The Long Ride Home tells the truth: yes, there was an element of finding a key to unlock Rowan’s autism, but at the same time, as often happens, other challenges surfaced. The book highlights what should be obvious – that setting up a charity across two continents is a huge task, especially when you’re also trying to care for your child and manage the rest of your life.
I won’t spoil it for anyone – because you all should read it, horsey or not, and impacted directly by autism or not – but I will say that I read the book hoping that everything would turn out alright. I found it to be a deeper exploration of the people and things around Rowan, whereas The Horse Boy was very much a tale of how one child struggles to find his way in the world. Some of the book mirrors my own thoughts and feelings, particularly as I approached the end and found Rupert dive into some highly introspective moments of existential debate. The book is a blunt example of the fact that, although things can look okay on the outside, there is often far more going on underneath than even the person living the experience may know. I like the concept offered by Rowan’s mum, Kristin – a scientist, in fact – who asserts that it’s acceptable to say, “I don’t know”; this is something that many parts of society really struggles with – human beings need a solid answer to everything, and many of us feel pressure to be able to confidently and clearly answer questions such as, “what are you aiming for?” or “where do you see yourself in five years time?”
Next time I’m struggling to figure “it” out, I hope that I either reach for this book or remember the message that sometimes, it’s not even as straightforward as heading in the direction of your own ideal outcome:
“Working with autistic kids and horses had never been my dream…by throwing myself into these things that weren’t my dreams, by being in service to the dreams of others – others more vulnerable than myself – my own dreams were starting to come true.”
This book shouldn’t be read as a definitive guide on how to handle autism: the particular journey taken here is just that – specific, tailored towards what one family was able to organise to suit their own needs. Nobody is suggesting that every family with an autistic child trek through Mongolia (and Mongolia surely wouldn’t cope with that sheer weight of traffic), but what it is pleading for is that people work together in order to find a solution. Life is a group effort, and the part you play may not always be clear, but the purpose will eventually become obvious. The book is more of an encouragement to do what is right, and follow your dreams, rather than doing what you think you should do. It’s a message I wholeheartedly endorse.
To find out more about Rupert and his team’s work, visit horseboyworld.com