Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman
256 Pages (Hardcover)
August 7, 2012
Henry Holt and Co.
A transporting and brilliant novel narrated by an unforgettable woman: Karen Nieto, an autistic savant whose idiosyncrasies prove her greatest gifts
As intimate as it is profound, and as clear-eyed as it is warmhearted, Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World marks an extraordinary debut by the award-winning Mexican playwright, journalist, and poet Sabina Berman.
Karen Nieto passed her earliest years as a feral child, left alone to wander the vast beach property near her family's failing tuna cannery. But when her aunt Isabelle comes to Mexico to take over the family business, she discovers a real girl amidst the squalor. So begins a miraculous journey for autistic savant Karen, who finds freedom not only in the love and patient instruction of her aunt but eventually at the bottom of the ocean swimming among the creatures of the sea. Despite how far she's come, Karen remains defined by the things she can't do—until her gifts with animals are finally put to good use at the family's fishery. Her plan is brilliant: Consolation Tuna will be the first humane tuna fishery on the planet. Greenpeace approves, fame and fortune follow, and Karen is swept on a global journey that explores how we live, what we eat, and how our lives can defy even our own wildest expectations.
This is not exactly a Young Adult title, but I agreed to review it here because it does have crossover appeal. Karen Nieto spent the first several years of her life as a feral child: naked, skittish and mute. With the help of her accepting aunt, Karen, later classified as a "high functioning autistic", is able to live an extraordinary life. In more than half of the areas that makes up one's intelligence, she is at the capability level of a kindergarden or preschool girl, however; in a few areas, she is a genius.
Getting into her mind and seeing the world through such a difference lens is fascinating. I felt like I was watching animals at a zoo, only instead of primates and what-not, Karen is watching the rest of the human race. The little things that are ingrained in everyday activity are pointed out by Karen to be hypocritical, pointless, egotistical, etc. The amazing thing is that, more often than not, she is 100% correct. Karen has discovered the one thing that distinguishes her from the rest of the world; rather than thinking, therefore being, Karen existed, and then with great difficulty learned to think. This little fact makes all the difference in the world.
The philosophical implications and explorations of this novel are extraordinary, without being elevated to a incomprehensible level. This is definitely one of those novels that I will be thinking about for a while after I closed the cover. This book actually makes me kind of speechless, I cannot think of another thing to say about it. I would definitely recommend it. I am one of those teenagers who cannot find enjoyment out of "adult" books, however; this is a clear exception. Adults and older teenagers alike will be fascinated by this novel.