Monday, March 7, 2022

"Like No Other Boy" by Larry Center

It begins at the San Diego Zoo. Chris Crutcher has his eight-year-old son Tommy on an outing. Chris is divorced from Tommy’s mother Cheryl; they share custody. Other zoo visitors occasionally stare at Tommy. He’s a beautiful child. He’s also autistic, and it is not a mild version. 

Since the time he was diagnosed, the boy has bounced from one doctor to another, one expert to another, and one school to another. Cheryl has already begun to talk about another school, this one in Houston, Texas. Chris doesn’t like the idea; even a visit together tells Chris is just like all the rest. Plus there’s his ailing 82-year-old father to consider. Cheryl is more than determined, however, and she’s ready to run Chris over and not look back.


But at the San Diego Zoo that day, something remarkable happens. Tommy connects to the chimpanzees. He makes signs the chimps seem to understand. He even spots one chimp that he tells Chris has a baby. There’s no way for Tommy to know any of this. 


Larry Center

Chris and a reluctant Cheryl allow Tommy to visit the Weller Institute, a research center in San Diego that studies chimpanzees. And something even more remarkable happens. Not only does Tommy communicate with the chimps, but he’s also better able to express himself with people. The institute wants to do a study; Chris gives the okay. And that sets up for a colossal conflict with Cheryl, one that will end up in court.


Like No Other Boy by Larry Center is the story of Tommy, Chris, Cheryl, and the chimpanzees. It’s also a heartwarming story of a man’s love for his son, and a man’s love for his father. 


Center has a degree in philosophy, and he’s always been interested in children’s and animal’s communication. He lives in Nashville.


I found myself tensing at several points in the book, especially as the court hearing approaches and then happens. You’re half afraid you know what the decision is going to be, and what that could mean for both Chris and Tommy. All of the characters, with perhaps the exception of chimps, have serious flaws; but the hope of the story is that they’ll be able to get passed them. 

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