Thursday, September 21, 2017

Book Review: The Awakening of HK Derryberry~My Unlikely Friendship with the Boy Who Remembers Everything by Jim Bradford with Andy Hardin

Matthew 25:40

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’


The Awakening of HK Derryberry is the inspiring story of how one man was willing to step out of his upper middle-class world into the life of a young, disabled boy with a dismal future. Little did Jim Bradford know the transformational potential of that friendship—for HK and himself.

HK Derryberry came into the world with the odds stacked heavily against him. He was taken from his unmarried mother’s womb three months prematurely when she was killed in a car wreck. After ninety-six days of seesawing between life and death, HK’s grandmother took him home.

One Saturday morning Jim Bradford, a successful businessman in his mid-fifties, happens into Mrs. Winner’s Chicken and Biscuits and sees a nine-year-old’s head pressed down against a black plastic boom box with a crooked antenna and three strips of silver duct tape stretched across the battery cover. He can’t help but notice the long, white plastic braces on each of the child’s legs. Mr. Bradford learns that HK’s grandmother is forced to bring him to the fast-food restaurant where she works, leaving him to sit alone all day at a small table, with only his boom box for company. On subsequent Saturdays Jim feels drawn back to the restaurant to meet with HK and begins spending every weekend with him.

Eventually it becomes apparent that buried beneath HK’s severe disabilities is one spectacular ability. He is diagnosed with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), which involves superlative powers of recollection that enable him to remember everything that has happened to him since the age of three. Less than one hundred people have been diagnosed with HSAM, but none of them have the physical disabilities of HK Derryberry.

My Personal Review

The Awakening of HK Derryberry by Jim Bradford with Andy Hardin is a unique work that will both inspire and enlighten you! It is definitely a book to be read by all those who have the privilege of working with people who have special needs, anyone who has a child with extra challenges, as well as anyone who would simply like to understand some of the complexities and mountainous battles that this population tackles on a daily basis.

I enjoyed the narration of this book, immensely. As I read it, I felt as if I were sitting at the table having a cup of coffee with the author as he tells the story about meeting and doing life with his friend, HK Derryberry. Before the book is complete, the reader feels like they personally know both Jim and HK. I think this is because the author's tenderness and compassion are tangible! As HK's physical challenges are unveiled, I found myself feeling protective of him and completely encouraged by his zest for life. 

In addition to the wonderful narration, reading The Awakening of HK Derryberry is an educational experience. I appreciated learning about the latest computerized reading device to assist readers with braille, called Braille Lite, as well as developing a new awareness that people with cerebral palsy often react the opposite ways in highly charged emotional situations. HSAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory) was another area of completely new information to me.

Finally, and what makes this book a winner in my mind, is the tenacious spirit of HK and his grandmother, Pearl. HK's life has been anything but simple and yet he choses to concentrate on joy and share it with others. HK focuses on what is good and pure about our human existence. He takes the raw painful things that humanity has thrown at him and flips it into an expression of love, hope, compassion, perseverance, ambition, and redemption. His optimistic spirit is contagious!! His grandmother modeling a selfless life filled with determination, courage, and grace is no doubt the catalyst that ignited the prevailing "can do" attitude that defines HK. Simply beautiful. 

I have never left a message for the characters in my books when reviewing them before, but there is always a first time for everything! 
I don't know if they will ever even read this review, but here it goes...

HK~ She would have definitely loved you!
Jim~Your sensitivity and obedience to the leading of the Spirit is bold!
Pearl~Thank you for stepping into the unknown!

Thank you to W Publishing Groups, an imprint of Thomas Nelson for this review copy of The Awakening of HK Derryberry by Jim Bradford with Andy Hardin. I was not required to give a favorable review, but only to read the book in it's entirety and give an honest opinion of the contents.