I just finished reading Under the Banana Moon: A True Story of Living, Loving, Loss and Asperger’s by Kimberley Gerry-Tucker. I could not put this book down. What can I say about this impressionable book? Read it, share it, and talk about it! If you do not have first-hand knowledge about Asperger’s syndrome and selective mutism, Kimberley Gerry-Tucker has allowed you to be the “fly on her wall”. As you turn the pages of her memoir, you almost feel like an intruder, a peeping-Tom. Kimberley lays her soul for all to see. When you meet another person with Asperger’s or autism, you will surely remember the time you lost yourself reading Kimberley’s story Under the Banana Moon.
Kim, as she is also called, walks you through her difficult childhood, her mixed-up teen years, her early marriage and motherhood. All this time she did not know she had Asperger’s but you, the reader, does. It is very interesting following her life, picking out her Asperger’s traits, and seeing how finally she gets a diagnosis. Her different behaviors and uncommon reactions because she has Asperger’s are revealed through her struggles and challenges growing up, being a mom, a wife, and in her late thirties a caregiver.
Under the Banana Moon: A True Story of Living, Loving, Loss and Asperger’s
I will leave many details out because I want you to enjoy the book as much as I did. The Foreword is written by Donna Williams, author of the international bestseller, Nobody Nowhere. Ms. Williams brushes a quick summary of Kim’s story. Readers know from the start that Kim’s husband Howie, the father of her three children, develops ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Kim, in spite of her anxiety problems, her communication impairment, and caring for her children, becomes the sole caregiver to Howie.
Readers, who are not familiar with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig ’s disease, will see in great detail how it unfolds from Howie’s very first symptoms to his very last heartbeat. The ALS Association and the Muscular Dystrophy Association web page says, “The onset of ALS is insidious with muscle weakness or stiffness as early symptoms. Progression of weakness, wasting and paralysis of the muscles of the limbs and trunk as well as those that control vital functions such as speech, swallowing and later breathing generally follows.” The toll it took on Kimberley hits home when Howie yells to her, “Go to. Hell. You and your little friend!” and she answers, “Maybe I’m already there.”
Below is a painting of Howie made by Kim.
The person that holds the family together and Howie in the family home instead of a nursing home is Kim. Kimwhose problems prevented her from driving a car, whose husband had always “taken care” of many household responsibilities, who was struggling in many areas because of her sensitivities and selective mutism became the head of the family. She did this admirably well. The woman with Asperger’s who only longed to blend into the background had to assert herself to get the services and support her dying husband needed.
Kim may have difficulty in expressing herself orally but she certainly knows how to write expressively! Can you find her Asperger’s traits in some of my favorite excerpts?
- I wish I had canned laughter like on TV that I could operate when the others laughed. His (teacher) words were riddles I couldn’t solve.
- This was me. Holly didn’t know that even people like me who did not express much with their features can have their pride-and-flesh-hurt.
- I did not know how to roll with the tide, follow the herd, fly with the flock.
- Just because I was so different than the kids at school didn’t mean that I wasn’t the same on the inside, with the same wants, needs, hopes and fears.
- Friendship was like thinking you wanted a cute puppy but then afterward you realized the upkeep.
- But often the words I conjured in my head dissipated into nothingness; a mysterious eraser undoing my sentences as soon as I thought them.
The retired teacher in me was touched by Kim’s retelling of her school years. The painful memories never left her because when she visits her son’s school she wrote, “I fell into a seat, my eyes darting… like a vet having war flashbacks. School was a sensory memory of fear and confusion…”
Numerous readers will be able to relate and appreciate Under the Banana Moon. Some will be eager to read about how a woman with Asperger’s copes with the demands of life. Others will follow with great interest the relationship between Kim and Howie from their first years when Howie was in charge to the years when Kim was forced to change roles with him. For many learning about ALS and reading about Howie’s final years will captivate them. All however will remember and admire the extraordinary care Kim gives to her husband while sacrificing all that is her life, her needs, her wellbeing. She shows the strength we can muster when there is nowhere else to turn by the selfless attention she gives her husband battling ALS.
Yes, friends make time and read Under the Banana Moon: A True Story of Living, Loving, Loss and Asperger’s by Kimberley Gerry-Tucker. I wish her the best as she will be starting college soon… and I hope a second book.
Kimberley Geryy-Tucker was born in Massachusetts; raised in Connecticut, by loving, supportive adoptive parents. She lives in Seymour, Connecticut with her son Jeremy and her daughter Kerry. Her oldest son, Jeff, who also has Asperger’s, recently graduated from college. She volunteers at a library and at a local hospital.
It’s through her passion for art and her innate drive to create, that she expresses herself best. Her paintings have shown at numerous New England galleries since 2007. Kim has been a published author since 1999, with her stories appearing in such anthologies as “Women From Another Planet”.