Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb

I fell in love with the autistic protagonist Todd Aaron on page one, and on that same page felt a stab of empathy for his mother that nearly felled me. I read on, about their moment of parting; about Todd’s relatively happy life for the ensuing 41 years in the Payton Living Center; about his brother who came to visit him only occasionally; about the new roommate, the attractive new “villager,” and worse, the disturbing new employee at the center. Todd’s literal mind and exact reporting make for the wryest of commentary, and some scenes are howlingly funny. His own misperceptions can be funny one minute, shattering the next, and his perceptions can be so acute they startle. The book swings from past to present in tandem with his mind as a scent rekindles memory or sparks fear—or laughter or longing—in the present. But it’s when past and present begin to merge that the book totally ignites—along with the reader’s heart. – Betsy Burton