May’s book review is Ghost Boy, by Martin Pistorius (2013), a young man from South Africa who now lives in the UK. In the Prologue, Martin writes:
Have you ever seen one of those movies in which someone wakes up as a ghost but they don’t know they’ve died? That’s how it was, as I realized people were looking through and around me, and I didn’t understand why.”
Martin is sixteen years old when he starts waking up. He’s in an institution for severely-disabled children, but he doesn’t know how old he is because he was only twelve when he got sick and lapsed into a coma. Now he’s in a wheelchair, his body thin and twisted. He’s powerless to control his movements, to let anyone know he can see and hear what’s going on around him.
Everyone believes he’s out of it. Years pass. But Martin senses God’s presence with him.
Then comes Virna, a caregiver who speaks to Martin, looks for his response, and learns to read his face. She doesn’t give up on him, thank God. His parents take him for an evaluation, and when it shows his potential, they get the tools he needs to communicate – a computer and the right software. At twenty-six, he starts learning words, sentences. Not only that, but he sees problems with computers, and he’s a natural at fixing them.
One day, Martin meets a girl online (a friend of his sister’s), and they fall in love, although they’ve never met in person. They talk about their possible future together. Above all, he’s honest.
I’m not going to sugar coat it,” [he writes] to her in an email. “I’m going to tell you everything I need help with, and if you change your mind after reading it, that’s fine.” (page 197)
Ghost Boy speaks to me on many levels. One, I worked as a nurse with people who couldn’t communicate or help themselves. Two, my son is Martin’s age. Three, I share Martin’s faith in God. Fourth, I spent time in South Africa while my daughter and her family were living there, and I visited England while my son was going to school there.
I also admire the writing – the way Martin meshes his years of silence with his transition to manhood. I appreciate his transparency, his conclusions about life, the photos he shares.
Who would like this Ghost Boy
If you like inspirational first-person accounts, if you’re a nurse or caregiver, or if you want to know how people communicate through computer technology, this book is for you. It’s a fast read, funny in places and full of hope and love. But the abuse Martin suffered also had to be revealed, and some parts are graphic. For this reason I recommend the book to Adults Only.
I love living in a time when we can read about a real person and then watch a video of them. To see an interview with Martin and his wife, click here.
Thank you very much, Martin, for sharing your life with us.
Posted on May 5, 2015.