Friday, December 30, 2016

Review of "The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband" by David Finch

In this droll and insightful memoir David Finch talks about learning to be a good husband and father despite having Asperger's Syndrome.

David Finch's behavior was always different than most people but he had coping mechanisms that worked until he got married. After five years of matrimony Finch's union was unraveling because of his obsessive and (seemingly) self-centered behavior. Finch's wife Kristen - an autism expert - identified his problem as Asperger's Syndrome....and doctors soon confirmed the diagnosis.

People with Asperger's are on the 'high end' of the autism spectrum and may exhibit a range of symptoms. Some Asperger's behaviors exhibited by Finch include: inflexible routines; preoccupation with a single subject; inability to understand people's feelings (lack of empathy); tendency to talk too much; trouble having a conversation; repetitive mannerisms; and others.

For example Finch had to take an hour-long shower every morning; eat cereal for breakfast every day; and wear shirts with red labels for casual wear and shirts with black labels for dress-up. He had to walk around the house in a clockwise direction every night and stare out the window at neighbors' rooftops. Finch had no concept of sharing household responsibilities (laundry, dishes, child care, etc.) and couldn't comprehend his wife being annoyed about this. Finch was uncomfortable with people and would spend hours preparing conversatonal tidbits and jokes before meetings. On game night with friends, Finch couldn't tolerate a change in the order of the games or - heaven forbid - substituting a new game. And much much more.

Though most people might be dismayed by a diagnosis of Asperger's, Finch was elated. He figured, now that he knew what was wrong, he could fix the problem. So.....with Kristen's help Finch started to keep 'A Journal Of Best Practices' (really notes on random scraps of paper) telling himself how to think, act, communicate, and be a good husband and father. As Finch jokingly describes it, he put post-it notes everywhere - including his forehead - and had a night table drawer packed with helpful hints.

Guided by Kristen, Finch would make notes like:
When we have company don't get in the car and leave for an hour.
Don't rant and rave in front of the kids.
Sometimes Kristen just needs me to listen.....and not blurt out my opinions.
Don't change the radio station when Kristen's singing along.
Laundry: better to fold and put away than take only what I need from the dryer.
Go with the flow.

Finch's 'recovery'' wasn't all smooth sailing, and he engaged in long bouts of swearing, yelling. and dramatic weeping. Still, after a couple of years - and a lot of hard work - Finch's marriage improved; he was more attentive to his kids; and he was doing household chores.

I read the book out of curiosity but I think people with Asperger's Syndrome (or other atypical behaviors) might be encouraged to see how one man improved his life.

Rating: 3.5 stars


  1. This sounds fascinating. I love reading about how the mind works and our struggles to live within its boundaries.

  2. I agree Jacqui, the mind is fascinating.