A Painful Gift
A Painful Gift: The Journey of a Soul with Autism
by Christopher Goodchild
London, England: Darton Longman and Todd, 2009
Reviewed by Kalyn Falk
Christopher Goodchild's story is extraordinary: given up for adoption, sent to a mental institution, abused by a counselor, and diagnosed with autism. It is hard to relate to his circumstances or imagine his difficulties in processing the world. Yet, though the elements of his story may seem to lend themselves to a sensational, tragic read, Goodchild is able to locate the themes of his life in terms of universal longings and truth.
Using the Christian Stations of the Cross as a structure, Goodchild describes his journey from deep shame and insecurity to a place of deep compassion, genuine healing, and authenticity. His honest search to find acceptance is realized through his self-compassion, his deep affinity for Jesus, and his relationship with his son.
As a spiritual director and the mother of an autistic son, I was captivated by Goodchild's story. I would have liked to hear more specifically about his practice in spiritual direction, but this book is not specifically about spiritual direction, nor is it about autism. It is about the "struggle to be truly ourselves in the world" (6). His struggle has broken him open rather than broken him down (to paraphrase one of his own statements) and is a moving and powerful journey.
Kalyn Falk is a Jubilee Associate who practices spiritual direction in Winnipeg, Canada. She is a mother, educator, and performer.