Friday, March 18, 2011

GUEST POST BY S. O'BRIEN AUTHOR OF BULLET WORK

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Ananais Kaine, The Hotwalker.

Bullet WorkA young man named Ananais Jacob Kaine is one of the principal characters in Bullet Work. He is a hotwalker, someone who walks horses after a race or workout to cool them down or provide modest exercise for an animal. It is the lowliest of jobs on the racetrack backside.

Ananais, or AJ as he is called, has Asperger’s Syndrome. Although never mentioned in the book, those who are familiar with the condition will quickly be able to identify it. The disorder is characterized by challenges in social interaction, restricted, but extremely intense areas of interest and repetitive behavior. It is believed to be a milder variant of autism.
I have known young people with Asperger’s and I wanted AJ to be an important part of this story. It was not my intention to make his limitations a part of the story. In fact, I wanted to explore what he could do that others could not. Too often, medical conditions frame the definition of a person.
I believe that we have to search for the positive side which is too often ignored or just explained away. Sadly, limitations are easier to believe than exceptional talents. The laser like focus of those with Asperger’s allows them to have an almost encyclopedic memory of every detail of their interest--whether it is dinosaurs, trains, or horses. We should value that, even celebrate it.
AJ’s intense area of interest is horses and he has a gift to communicate with them. If he places his hands on a horse, he can sense their feelings and thoughts. He can pick up clues about a horse’s mental condition just by watching it walk by. One of my advance readers thought his “gift” was too extreme to be believable. Maybe so.
But it is key to one of the themes of the book. Horses don’t lie, only people do.
This kind of telepathic communication isn’t a new concept, at least not in horseracing. Secretariat’s groom was a man named Eddie Sweat. Rumor was, Eddie could sense the emotions of his charges, including Secretariat, by placing his hands on them. We’ll never know. Sweat died of leukemia in 1998, but no one has ever disputed the claim.

Rehabilitating abused or injured animals through “horse whispering” or natural horsemanship was once regarded as a hoax also. In both cases, the concept is to get into the mind of the animal, not unlike spouses or close friends who can predict the other’s thoughts.

Did I go too far? Who’s to say?  I Have always believed that what God takes away in one dimension, he repays with gusto in another. The only question is can we, as mere humans,identify where God had doubled down?
              



Steve O Brien is an attorney, author, and former thoroughbred owner. Bullet Work is his second novel. It follows the critically acclaimed Elijah s Coin, recipient of nine literary awards, including Best Young Adult Fiction, National Best Books Awards, and Best Novella, Next Generation Indie Book Awards. He lives in Washington, D.C.






 Check back soon for my review of the book.



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