Girl Storm: A memoir of chaos, humor, and resilience in the path of profound autism
Girl Storm, written by Peg Kerswell, is a biography about a mother’s journey of raising her daughter, Ellie, who has been diagnosed with severe autism. Along the way, Ellie is diagnosed with other medical conditions, such as epilepsy. Kerswell includes many anecdotes to highlight what it is like to be a mother of a child with severe autism. For example, she discusses a time when her doctor’s office would not allow her to cancel her appointment due to a lack of babysitting, which resulted in Kerswell bringing her child to the appointment and knocking over the brochures and magazines in the waiting room.
While one can tell that Kerswell is overworked with the curveballs life throws at her, she uses dark humor to cope through the pain (and exhaustion). The author is authentic and real, as she lets the reader into some of her deepest thoughts regarding being the mom of a young child with severe autism. In one chapter, she describes her blood pressure lowering as she sees Ellie’s respite provider (otherwise known as Kerswell’s savior) arriving at the home, providing Kerswell with a needed break. Kerswell also shows her creativity by adding things such as poems and word searches, which gives the reader moments to pause in between digesting Kerswell’s hardships.
Girl Storm will pull on every heart-string. With every page I turned, I noticed tears forming in my eyes, as the author is able to extract a great sense of empathy for Peg and Ellie’s experience. The reader, if a mother themself, will feel an immense deepness for Peg, as she struggles to understand why her young infant isn’t rolling, sitting, or talking at the appropriate developmental milestones. The anecdotes about Ellie’s conditions and the late night emergencies lead the reader to having a deep sense of heartache for Peg, as motherhood is such a difficult experience, along with all the other experiences.
The reader will also find adoration for Ellie as well, especially in moments where Peg is begging Ellie to use the potty and Ellie’s response is to hit Peg on the side of her head. The character development and storytelling are artistic and brilliant. The book overall is a page turner and a fast read because of how captivated the reader will become, especially as Peg and her husband Jim try to navigate making a difficult decision on how to manage Ellie’s increasing self-harming behaviors.
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