The Practical Navigator by Stephen Metcalfe

The Practical Navigator
Stephen Metcalfe

St. Martin Press 2016

Stephen Metcalfe’s flawlessly crafted novel, “The Practical Navigator, takes the reader through an emotional, but heartwarming, account of a single parent raising an autistic child.

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“. . .an honest depiction of the challenges and rewards in parenting a special-needs child..”

As the father of an autistic child himself, Metcalfe offers an honest depiction of the challenges and rewards in parenting a special-needs child.

Metcalfe displays his screenwriting experience with a plot line that is absorbing and fast-moving. The protagonist, father Michael Hodges, is barely coping with his life. The economy for his building contracting business is not good, and his mother, who often helps babysit his son Jamie, has early stages of Alzheimers. To add even more misery, Michael’s wife, Anita, who abandoned them when Jamie was a child, has returned and wants back into their lives.

When Anita, uninvited, tries to visit Jamie, Michael is torn. Jamie has positive responses when he is with his mother and Michael wants what makes Jamie happy. But he is also frightened because he is familiar with Anita’s demons, which relate to her work as a porn film actor, and he suspects, being an alcoholic.

There are captivating moments in the story such as when Michael invites Anita to a “Special Needs Family Fun Day.” Though initially nervous Anita cheers her son on during a soccer game and begins to cry with joy when, Jamie, rather than kicking the ball to score, picks it up and offers it to the goalie, who “smiling with pleasure,” tosses the ball into the net.

Meanwhile, Michael’s loving side evolves. Once a professional surfer, he becomes a caring son and parent. Jamie’s own trials as he goes to public school and his talents are discovered is inspiring, making the novel worth the read.

Reviewer: Kate Padilla