The slyly funny, sweetly moving memoir of an unconventional dad’s relationship with his equally offbeat son—complete with fast cars, tall tales, homemade explosives, and a whole lot of fun and trouble .
Misfit, truant, delinquent. John Robison was never a model child, and he wasn’t a model dad either. Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of forty, he approached fatherhood as a series of logic puzzles and practical jokes. When his son, Cubby, asked, “Where did I come from?” John said he’d bought him at the Kid Store and that the salesman had cheated him by promising Cubby would “do all chores.” He read electrical engineering manuals to Cubby at bedtime. He told Cubby that wizards turned children into stone when they misbehaved.
Still, John got the basics right. He made sure Cubby never drank diesel fuel at the automobile repair shop he owns. And he gave him a life of adventure: By the time Cubby was ten, he’d steered a Coast Guard cutter, driven a freight locomotive, and run an antique Rolls Royce into a fence.
The one thing John couldn’t figure out was what to do when school authorities decided that Cubby was dumb and stubborn—the very same thing he had been told as a child. Did Cubby have Asperger’s too? The answer was unclear. One thing was clear, though: By the time he turned seventeen, Cubby had become a brilliant chemist—smart enough to make military-grade explosives and bring state and federal agents calling. Afterward, with Cubby facing up to sixty years in prison, both father and son were forced to take stock of their lives, finally coming to terms with being “on the spectrum” as both a challenge and a unique gift.
By turns tender, suspenseful, and hilarious, this is more than just the story of raising Cubby. It’s the story of a father and son who grow up together.
Robison's third book starts with a bang his description of the "malicious explosion" created by his teenage Cubby that has the boy, who has Asperger's syndrome, looking at 60 years in prison, is as disconcerting as it is captivating. Sadly, much of the book drops off from there as the author segues into the personal story of his own transition from adolescence to adulthood. While the social problems he encounters because he, too, has Aspergers, are appealing, the stories of his business dealings lack the appeal of Cubby's journey. The tales of bringing up his son, which are relayed in 55 short chapter-length vignettes and told in the accessible prose that made his book Look Me in the Eye, a New York Times bestseller, are decidedly hit or miss. For instance, "Tuck-in Time," which simply explains that kids like bedtime stories, gives little insight into Aspergers or to Cubby's personality. On the other hand, "Cubby Versus the School" and "Reading" give a personal and informative perspective on the challenges kids with Cubby's condition face when it comes to acceptance and learning. The story picks up in the last 100 pages, as Cubby, a brilliant kid with an inquisitive scientific mind, creates explosive chemistry experiments that bring charges from the local DA. With the ensuing investigation and trial, Cubby and the author are drawn into a crazy world that threatens to tear apart their already delicate lives and allows the book to live up to the promise of its exciting first five pages.