Chasing the Rabbit: A Dad’s Life Raising a Son on the Spectrum, by Derek Volk with Dylan Volk
(D & A Publishing, 2015).
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Reviewed by Christine Guth, Program Director for Anabaptist Disabilities Network
Chasing the Rabbit: A Dad’s Life Raising a Son on the Spectrum, by Derek Volk with Dylan Volk (D & A Publishing, 2015) is a memoir relating a father’s experience raising a highly capable yet often troubled son on the autism spectrum. The story is enriched and given integrity by interspersing the young adult son’s insights into the experiences of his childhood and youth. I started out wary of a self-published book, but after the first few chapters I forgot all about that wariness as the unfolding narrative captured my attention with often riveting, well written stories that composed a cohesive whole.
The book offers parents of children on the autism spectrum a sense of companionship on a difficult journey by illustrating the particular challenges that face bright young people on the autism spectrum, especially those who others do not immediately identify as disabled yet who are acutely and painfully aware of the typical friendships and relationships they are missing out on.
Christian faith enters this narrative smoothly and naturally at critical points when Derek’s faith provided a lifeline for enduring times of greatest stress. The book recounts both helpful and hurtful actions by faith communities. A priest who leaves the family high and dry during Dylan’s stays in a psychiatric hospital reveals the potential for deep hurt by church leaders who choose to withdraw rather than engage with families in desperate need of support. A more helpful model of involvement is the church that makes room for Dylan Volk to explore his surprising gifts as standup comedian.
I appreciated the book’s respect for Dylan Volk, the son, demonstrated by the perspectives he shares in his own words that are included in most of the chapters. It might have been helpful to include his perspective from the outset rather than 48 pages into the narrative, so readers could immediately see the book was written not just about him but with his consent and full participation.
Chasing the Rabbit is highly recommended reading for parents of children (including adult children) on the spectrum, or with other disabilities, especially those involving mental health. The book amply achieves its aim of inspiring “love, laughter and grace” (p. x) as it forges an emotional connection with readers. It would be an enlightening read for pastors, teachers, relatives, and any others who want to increase their understanding of what parents of children and adults on the spectrum are going through. It might be painful reading for young adults who are on the spectrum themselves, but insightful for any who are ready to reflect more deeply on how their lives impact those they love.
Purchase Chasing the Rabbit.