Title: The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband
Author: David Finch
No. of Pages: 224
“At some point in nearly every marriage, a wife finds herself asking, what is wrong with my husband’s brain?! In David Finch’s case, this turns out to be an apt question. Five years into his marriage, David and his wife Kristen learn that he has Asperger Syndrome, an autism spectrum condition characterized by egocentricity, unusual and sometimes repetitive behaviors, and impaired social reasoning. The diagnosis explains David’s life-long quirks, his difficulty socializing, and his need for things to go according to plan. But it doesn’t make him any easier to live with.
Determined to change that, David embarks on an ambitious journey to understand and rein in the symptoms of the disorder which have wreaked havoc on his marriage. With the analytical fervor typical of an Aspie and with Kristen’s patient help, David compiles a list of best practices—hard-won epiphanies that arise from fights, from self-reflection both comic and painful, and once from watching SportsCenter: “be her friend first and always,” “use words,” “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s life,” and “laundry: better to fold and put away than to take only what you need from the dryer.” Over the course of two years, the Journal of Best Practices leads David to surprising insights, transforming him into a better husband, father, and all-around better guy… albeit one who sometimes quacks in public.”
Thoughts: Having met David Finch in Detroit last October during the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association annual trade show, I discovered first-hand what a genuinely funny person he is. I knew that reading his memoir, The Journal of Best Practices, would be an enjoyable experience. I was prepared for the humor; I was not prepared for the heartfelt honesty and almost heartbreaking determination he shows throughout his journey to overcome his Asperger’s in order to save his marriage. While David explains how difficult simple, everyday situations are for him due to his Asperger’s, the lessons he learns over the eighteen-month experiment are truly lessons for every male.
Any memoir is only as good as the forthrightness of the author. David’s honesty is as refreshing as it is touching to behold. There is no holding back for Mr. Finch. He is surprisingly candid in telling his story; for better or for worse, David tells it like it really was. He does not hide the fact that he was a distant father or selfish husband. A story such as his needs this openness to showcase his struggles and help the reader understand just how remarkable his successes are. Because of his honesty, the reader walks away from his story feeling as if s/he really knows David and feels humbled at being allowed such an intimate look into his life.
Every woman should be so lucky to have a husband like David. Ultimately, his love for Kristin is the driving force behind his need for self-improvement. The fact that he was able to make it so long without a diagnosis of any sort shows that he was able to function in society. He did not have to attempt to this experiment, and yet he jumped into it with as much enthusiasm and excitement as any five-year-old on Christmas morning. Given the divorce rates these days, most people in Kristin and David’s situation would have called it quits. The fact that they did not is testament to their love, and it is beautiful to behold.
Marriage is never easy. Marriage to someone with Asperger Syndrome makes it even more difficult, especially if neither party knows that he has Asperger’s at the beginning of the marriage. What is remarkable is the effort and work both Kristin and David put forth to save their marriage. The Journal of Best Practices is a great example of the dedication and perseverance it requires for a healthy and happy marriage. Better yet, David Finch has made it easy for every husband out there to learn what women truly want!
Acknowledgements: Thank you to the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association and David Finch for my review copy!