From the back:
Noah’s wife is Na’amah, a beautiful, brilliant girl with a form of autism (now) known as Asperger’s. She wishes only to be a shepherdess on her beloved hills in ancient Turkey—a desire shattered by her powerful brother’s hatred, the love of two men, and a looming disaster only she knows is coming.
I got this book in the Historical Novel Society Conference goodie-bag and was intrigued. Asperger Syndrome runs in my family, so I was curious as to how T. K. Thorne would handle that aspect of her debut novel. She states in her “Acknowledgements” and “Postscript” that she doesn’t have AS and relied on research and particularly the writings of Dr. Temple Grandin, a well-known speaker and writer on the topic. (Dr. Grandin is autistic.) For the most part, I felt Thorne got it right. As she notes, this is a neurological condition that runs a vast spectrum of behaviors and can present as a severe disability up to creative genius. Every person with AS presents differently, but they all share a common difficulty with social engagement. They are “clueless” until they figure out, or someone teaches them, the social rules that most children seem to absorb with no instruction. There’s no reason to believe AS didn’t exist in 5500 BCE, but, from a Darwinian point of view, it was probably very rare. Loners, folks who didn’t “belong” or conform to group norms, would have had a significant survival disadvantage. This is how Na’amah describes herself:
My name, Na’amah, means pleasant or beautiful. I am not always pleasant, but I am beautiful. Perhaps that is why I am trundled atop this beast like a roll of hides for market and surrounded by grim-faced men. If my captors had bothered to ask me, I would have told them that their prize is of questionable value because my mind is damaged…Memories appear as images in my mind. Each word-sound I hear has its own color and shape and they fit together with the others in patterns that I can recall as easily as I can name every sheep on my hillside…I speak only truth, unwise as it may be, since lies distress me…my words and manner seem odd to other people. I am more comfortable with animals, who do not expect me to be any way than the way I am. (more…)