Review: The Spark - A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius, by Kristine Barnett

The Spark:
A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius
by Kristine Barnett
Random House (4/9/13)
272 pgs / $25
When I received Kristine Barnett's The Spark  from's Early Reviewers program this month, my first reaction was "...why??" I'd remembered requesting it, but couldn't really remember why I'd done so. And I wasn't really in a non-fiction mood, so what was I gonna do? Although worried that my mood wouldn't give me a fair perspective on the book, I dove in anyway, ever so slightly curious.

Very early on, Kristine grabs you and holds on, totally forcing you to not only listen to and embrace this incredible woman's humility, but to acknowledge your own emotions on the subject. 

This author is a woman who, despite having two special needs kids, lupus, and incredible financial difficulties (all on top of the regular taxations of life - family loss, the recession, etc.) still manages to put on a happy face for the sake of helping kids. Her message is that, regardless of their perceived abilities, all children should be encouraged to do what they love. 

As the book takes you step by step through the diagnosis and subsequent trials of Jake's autism, you find yourself cheering for him, for his family, for this incredible boy who was told by professionals at three that he would never read. He was told by professional after professional that mainstreaming would never be an option but now, at thirteen years old, he's a college student, socially adept and considered to be possibly the smartest person in the world.

You don't need a genius - or even an autistic person - in your life to appreciate Kristine's story, but having a child in your life, or having someone in your life with special needs will certainly enrich your experience. And even if biographies and memoirs aren't your kind of thing (they're not mine at all), memoir is only the beginning of a description of this book. Everyone should read it.


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