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"The story Heather tells, her own as the mother of several autistic children, who stumbled through trial and error to find ways that would help them develop on normal paths, is riveting and very important. She tells it with lucidity, suspense, narrative momentum and compassion, balancing the individual moments about her children, which are intensely observed, with helpful pullbacks that give the reader the larger picture of autism and its treatment in this country. While doing so, she manages to evade the pitfalls of sentimentality, myopia, excessive rage, and self-righteousness. It is difficult for me to separate her courage and integrity as a human being from her achievement as a writer; so let us say that both strands are inextricably intertwined."


Phillip Lopate (, the author of Against Joie de Vivre,BachelorhoodBeing with ChildrenPortrait of My Body, and Totally, Tenderly, Tragically, and the novels The Rug Merchant and Confessions of a Summer.



"Heather's goal is nothing less than to change the way autism is understood, diagnosed and treated in this country. By telling her story eloquently and honestly, Heather calls for new ways to deal with this devastating and increasingly common condition. Using her authority as a mother who lived through everything she writes about, Heather draws the reader into a new way of seeing the world."


Susan Cheever (, the author of Drinking in America: Our Secret History, My Name is BillNote Found in a BottleHome Before Dark, and Desire.



"Heather doesn’t ever sound desperate or hysterical, quite the opposite, in fact; she has an intelligence and a kind of reserve that really serves this particular story. My admiration is two-fold: first, for Heather and her husband Mike – such courage, strength of character, commitment to their kids and each other; second for the telling itself – it’s a complicated tale and her prose is clear, absorbing, compelling, even suspenseful."


Dinah Lenney (, the author of The Object Parade and Bigger than Life.



"Heather’s stunning memoir describes the autism of her children and her fight as a mother to help them recover. I love Heather’s work, and reading this memoir, I would often find myself holding my breath with the beauty of her words. Heather has a focus and discipline toward her work which is extraordinary."


Kerry Madden (, the author of the book Biography of Harper LeeOffsidesGentle’s HollerLouisiana’s SongJessie’s Mountain and Up Close: Harper Lee



"Small Animals First recounts unexpected events as one woman endures a turbulent pregnancy, the unexpected joy of motherhood, and the emotional and practical challenges that befall many mothers.  It incorporates up-to-date research and, perhaps more importantly, the personal experience and recapitulation of the perseverance of a family that refused to give up or accept a single or convenient answer.  This is an informative tale, but it is not limited by the perils and unique joys of understanding autism; this is also a story about the nature of family and hope, and one woman’s journey as a mother who would do anything to help her children recover."


Jen Knox (, the author of After the Gazebo and Musical Chairs.



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