Saving Max by Antoinette Van Huegten

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Saving Max by Antoinette Van Huegten

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: A taut, claustrophobic (but in a good way) story about a mother's love for her son. All evidence points to autistic teenager Max having committed the ultimate crime - but his mother knows differently and sets out to prove it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 464 Date: February 2011
Publisher: Mira
ISBN: 978-0778304081

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The one-page Prologue sees us at the scene of the crime. Two teenagers and a lot of blood - one of whom will not survive. Seems like an open-and-shut case - but is it? We then go back in time to a medical consulting room in downtown New York. Hot-shot lawyer and time-pressed, single mum Danielle is trying to understand her severely disabled son. Even allowing for the normal teenage angst and racing hormones, things are not good at home. She knows it. Max knows it. And the medical profession at large, know it. Something needs to be done before things get out of hand.

Danielle is a loving and caring parent but even she seems to have reached the end of her tether. Max is becoming violent towards her. The overall problem is that Max is, in fact, a bright young man (he's an ace with computers, for instance) but his autism affects his social skills big-time and he leads a lonely and inverted life. He relies heavily on his mum in order to get through his days. But who does she rely on? She, in turn, is drained and emotional. Her job is starting to suffer and she needs to work to help pay Max's medical bills.

And the tone and writing style of Van Heugten fits well with her sensitive subject matter. We get up close and personal with both mother and son. We get to see Danielle's desperation at the medical system. Some of the descriptive sentences are apt and effortless. But now and again, some were a little over-long and strung out for no good reason, which was a pity. Over-egging the pudding, if you like. In my opinion the story is strong enough to take these shorter sentences.

A medical decision is made regarding Max and it's all downhill from there really. He's no longer in the loving care of his mother and so begins a complex story, as Danielle fights tooth and nail for her son. She's lucky in that she's familiar with the legal system and of her rights as well as those of Max. But even so, things are far from straightforward.

Early on in the book there's a 'chance' encounter between Danielle and a member of the opposite sex and later on, much later on, we meet him in another guise. The earlier meeting to me was both clumsily written and totally unnecessary.

We spend a lot of time waiting around hospitals and the like, for instance, there's a therapy session with parents and their troubled children. It's both illuminating and painful to read. And as various parents 'share their pain' ... The parents all smile and nod, like a bobble-head dog in the back of a '55 chevy. And it's often here that we meet the other characters in the book. One woman, a mother like Danielle stands out from the rest and her ultimate story is a piece of first-class writing.

I certainly felt caught up in Danielle's nightmare. The reader is spared no detail but I did, around the middle of the book, feel that it ran out of steam somewhat before picking up again. Perhaps at nearly 500 pages the book is a tad long, dropping the odd chapter may have made for a sharper, but still sensitive read. I say this because now and again I felt that Van Heugten was treading water. But overall, a good read about an extremely emotive subject. Recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then try Breaking the Silence by Diane Chamberlain.

Buy Saving Max by Antoinette Van Huegten at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Saving Max by Antoinette Van Huegten at

Buy Saving Max by Antoinette Van Huegten at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Saving Max by Antoinette Van Huegten at


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