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The Boy Who Went Away

3.37  ·  Rating Details ·  260 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
For Denny Graubert, the chaotic summer of 1967, when the screams of napalm bombs on the nightly news drowned the cheers of the All-Star game, brings the painful realization that childhood has passed. While engaging in his favorite domestic spying game, Denny unwittingly discovers the desperate measures his mother will take to save his autistic older brother, Fad, who is lo ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 5th 1998 by Bantam (first published January 1st 1997)
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The topic was interesting and original - the effects on a family of a son with a mysterious mental illness/ learning disability that turns out to be what we now know as Autism. The mother's persistence and love of her son while trying to keep the family together makes for compelling reading but the brother's struggle with the situation is at times difficult yet believable and other times just annoying. And aspects of the novel seem half baked, like the best friend and girlfriend who were flat an ...more
Gottlieb writes with such an intense and authentic honesty. Some passages were so raw that they were difficult to read. The perspectives Denny offers as the sibling to an autistic brother are both dark and heartbreaking. I think the detailed extrospection executed throughout the novel was a calculated choice, simultaneously staying true to its greater environmental themes while allowing readers a complete and unpolished look at a complicated, dysfunctional, and multi-faceted family. A completely ...more
Nikki Putnam
Aug 21, 2015 Nikki Putnam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book. Unsure why people are so critical of the way the family is depicted. It's a fictional family after all. I'm glad it was written the way it was because I think it more accurately portrayed the way ASD, along with other mental differences, was looked at during the 60s. It definitely reminds me of The Catcher in the Rye in some ways as well. Look forward to reading Best Boy next. Thank you to Powell's Indiespensable club for introducing me to this author.
I got this as part of my Powell's Indiespensable package. Quick read--and a very real (sometimes uncomfortably so) boy voice.
Aug 25, 2015 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a marvelously done depiction of an impossible situation, a young teen boy swept up in the stress of a family dealing with the boy's brother's autism. The effects on him and the effects he causes, him having less choice in what is going on than anyone perhaps beyond his brother. Do the parent's really have a choice though? They have some choices in what they do, but they have to try to do best by his brother...and in the course of that neglect or damage each other and the narrator. The na ...more
Jim B
May 16, 2014 Jim B rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jim by: Carol Trapp
This story about a 60's dysfunctional family dealing with a younger son who is apparently autistic is told through the unreliable view point of the older brother. He spies on his mother and is convinced she is having an affair with his brother's doctor.

I wanted to like this book. Perhaps if I'd grown up in a dysfunctional family, I would have related better to the story. It seemed to me to lack heart, possibly because it's told through the eyes of a adolescent sibling who acts out.

I try to read
Sep 23, 2015 Nan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book more than I did. The narrator, though, was barely likable. He seemed way too old for the job. His relentless pursuit of his mother's private life, his sociopathic friend, his rampage through a family doctor's office didn't quite ring true. (Maybe for a scorned older adult, but not a kid.) Although Fad, the narrator's brother is the boy who went away, he seems to be absent long before the nurse in the station wagon picked him up. (This bothers me most. People with autis ...more
Mary Wilt
Apr 14, 2016 Mary Wilt rated it liked it
I went back to read this after Best Boy, which was the best novel I read last year. This book suffers by comparison because the character of the boy with autism is one-dimensional. This is appropriate, given the context of the story told from his brother's perspective. A device of the story--that the narrator is a "spy" of his family, ferreting out details of day to day life--often leads to a feeling that the story is being described, not lived. And the flat portrayal of the affected brother, wh ...more
Jan 19, 2008 TK rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: smart, brave readers
Recommended to TK by: me
I picked this up after I read the author's second novel, Now You See Him, in manuscript form and was so jazzed to find a new writer to love I had to keep reading his stuff.

Many of the same things I liked about Now You See Him are present in this novel -- the sparkling prose, the unflinching look at awkwardness and painful truths. It has a darkness, and an honesty, that would make me think twice about recommending it to all but certain specific readers (city boys, smart unflappable men, broads, a
Rob Hermanowski
Eli Gottlieb's "The Boy Who Went Away" was written nearly 20 years ago, but was recently released in audio format as he has just published a companion book called "Best Boy." Both books depict someone with autism, and the tremendous impact this has on his family. Gottlieb's books are semi-autobiographical - he apparently has an autistic brother, but the family and situations he depicts in "The Boy Who Went Away" are fictional. The author is brutally honest in this book, and this frankness packs ...more
This was a heart wrenching story and I really wanted to like it more. Many things took place but it was still anticlimactic to me. The story is told by Denny in the 1960's whose brother Fad, is autistic. Denny is a self proclaimed "spy" and keeps copious notes on all of the members of his family due to his suspicions that something terrible is going on. Denny's roller coaster of emotions were written well. I loved and hated each character in this book at particular moments - which, to me, is a s ...more
Sep 16, 2015 Tripp rated it really liked it
This came with the new Powell's Indispensable book Best Boy. This book is a prequel set in the 60s. In it, a family contends with a severely autistic son that no one seems to know how to treat. The doctors mostly wash their hands of them. The father retreats into drink. The mother creates a false reality in hopes of keeping her eldest out of an institution. The younger son, the narrator, is largely ignored and so steeps in resentment. Not a very pleasant story and none of the characters are fine ...more
Sep 16, 2015 Sylvia rated it really liked it
This slim novel attracted my attention since I really loved Gottlieb's recent Best Boy. Told from the view of the younger brother in a dysfunctional family with an older autistic brother, this novel shows the strain and pain involved with living with a disabled sibling, who soaks up much of the family's attention and focus. I thought it was well done, but not as good as Best Boy. Together, they would make an outstanding book club discussion.
Oct 06, 2015 Elderberrywine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
The harrowing autobiographical account of the younger brother of a severely autistic boy set in the '60's, when the condition was little understood. Fad Graubert's mother will do absolutely anything to help her son stay out of an institution, even to the detriment of her husband and other son. The fact that the younger son is, unnoticed, staggering into puberty helps create a perfect storm of turbulence and paranoia. Powerfully written, but not a novel to wander into unawares.
Dec 16, 2015 Deborah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: family-dynamics
I felt compelled to read this after finishing Gottlieb's "Best Boy", which I could not put down. For me, this book was the opposite: I couldn't wait to be finished. It was interesting to be in Denny's head the whole way, remembering how confusing adolescence can be. The best experience in the book was the long paragraph of his thoughts in answer to Sabina's question about whether he'd missed Fad ...that was a great wrap up.
Paula Yerke
Jan 26, 2016 Paula Yerke rated it liked it
I liked the premise of the book. It is a story told by the brother of a boy with autism in the 60's. It shows the difficulties in getting help for the boy and what it does to the family. The problem was the weirdness of the kid telling the story. To me, he was downright creepy. I felt that he needed just as much help as his brother. Too much dark and ugly for me.
Sep 04, 2009 Marguerite rated it really liked it
A somber and sometimes heartbreaking book about a family on the brink. Eli Gottlieb's characters are finely drawn and absolutely true to themselves. As I neared the end, I came up with three other plausible finishes, something I seldom do. This book helped me appreciate advances in understanding autism. As bad as it can be, it was worse 40 years ago.
May 04, 2011 Lesley rated it really liked it
I gave it four stars due to the content of the book. I read it as a history lesson to myself on Asperger's and Autism Spectrum Disorder. The way the children were treated in this book made me want to cry and beat the pulp out of the grown-ups for being so insensitive and the cruelty which followed in its wake. Well written.
Sep 13, 2015 Wendy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Raw and unflinching, the story is frequently difficult for a mother to read, but, Oh, the writing! There were so many places where I stopped and reread a sentence or paragraph over and over for the sheer beauty and wonder of how the author put words together!
Susan Tarry
Sep 15, 2016 Susan Tarry rated it did not like it
I didn't enjoy this at all. I read it because I liked "Best Boy" by Gottlieb. This was too disturbing for my taste. The whole family was too weird, too dysfunctional. I found Denny to be scary, and half expected him to be the one who ended up being sent away in the end.
Chloe Knowling
Jul 08, 2015 Chloe Knowling rated it really liked it
An entrancing narrative about a special needs family in the 70's. A great read for someone who can identify with the characters and the difficulties they face.
Dec 31, 2007 Keith rated it really liked it
This is a short little book that packs quite an emotional punch. The narrator's mother was one of the most conflicted, vivid, and realistic characters I have seen in a novel.
May 20, 2012 Deanne rated it liked it
If Holden Caulfield had an autistic older brother, this book would replace Catcher in the Rye as a tale of teen angst set against the backdrop of Middle America circa 1970.
Feb 29, 2016 Dee rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
If you read Best Boy this is a must read. The story is told by the other brother and his family before the boy went away.
Alanoud Alajmi
Oct 22, 2015 Alanoud Alajmi rated it it was amazing

One of the best books I've read this year.

The writing is so beautiful and the way the story is approached is so raw and real. I highly recommend it.
Jan 29, 2016 Renie rated it liked it
Loved the writing, but found parts of the tale very disturbing.
James Cooper
What a family dynamic. Poor Fad (James).
Aug 04, 2013 Bianca rated it it was ok
only got halfway through
May 24, 2016 Marlana rated it did not like it
Too weird for my taste.
Nov 23, 2015 Angela rated it liked it
Shelves: indiespensable
"The Boy who Went Away" is a quick, interesting novel about a family simultaneously held together and torn apart by the narrator's autistic younger brother. Set in the late '60s, the story follows Denny and Fad's mother's last ditch efforts to keep Fad out of an institution, an outcome that Denny and his father are not so subtly hoping would return some normalcy to their own lives.
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