Click here to read reviewer Angela McQuay's take on Eye Contact.
One afternoon at Woodside Elementary School, just like Hansel and Gretel, the young Adam and Amelia suddenly
vanish into the woods. Adam is found alive and well, but soon after Amelia is discovered, savagely murdered
in a knife attack. How did two kids get away and across a soccer field without being seen? And what did the severely autistic nine-year-old Adam actually witness?
many parents with an autistic child, Cara pushes Adam tentatively into the world, persistently moving ten steps ahead of him. She never expected to have an autistic son and has spent most of the formative years of his life living in a type of fierce denial, refusing to get him tested, hoping he
will overcome the urge to get lost in his own world with no language at all and no communication.
No one can be sure whether Adam can remember anything of the event, and the few images that shine unsteadily through his brain seem to have little bearing on reality. But Cara is convinced that in Adam's mind lie the clues to what happened, if only she can interpret them correctly. Lost in his own world, Adam is visited by the police and by a child psychologist who use various techniques to try to jump-start his memory.
Meanwhile, Morgan, a gifted but troubled middle-school student, is certain he can solve the crime. He's convinced that if he finds out who killed Amelia, he will be forgiven for setting fire to some land beloved by his mother. Morgan believes that Chris, a fellow classmate, can tell him exactly what happened on that bloody afternoon in the woods.
Chris has a degree of obsessive-compulsive disorder and is being persecuted by schoolyard bullies, yet his actions are somehow tied to Amelia's death. However, it is Adam who ultimately holds the key. Adamís autism has caused him to love classical music and opera; he has perfect pitch and faultless hearing capacity. Cara is convinced they can make a connection to him through music, "the string which pulls him up, through rooms, out doors and ultimately away from her."
As fragments of that afternoon begin to return to Adam, Cara is forced to confront her own past, her history of failed friendships
- particularly with Suzette, her high-school friend, and her clandestine affair with Kevin, Adam's father.
Morgan gets caught up in a conviction that perhaps only Chris can prove, while Cara's need to unlock Adam's mind is motivated by her own past. In the end, she hopes she can free her son from this armor he has adopted in order to take on the world and to protect himself from a pain he just doesn't understand.
Eye Contact is a fast-paced literary thriller that relentlessly shifts perspective, the action unfolding from the point of view of McGovern's eclectic assortment of characters. And the author's scrupulous and well-researched views on autism are impassioned, enlightening and often informative.
The thematic heart of the novel is manifested in Cara's love for her son and her passage toward self-sacrifice. All she ever wants for Adam is a chance at recovery, to make connections, and perhaps to have some friends of his own. Amelia's death acts as a type of a catalyst for her, and she becomes conscious of just how large and consuming this kind of love
of a mother for her son with special needs can be.