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07 December 2009

Saving Sammy by Beth Alison Maloney: A Book Review and Tour

Title: Saving Sammy: Curing the Boy Who Caught OCD
Author: Beth Alison Maloney
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: September 22, 2009
Hardcover: 272 pages
ISBN: 978-0307461834
Genre: Non-fiction/Memoir


Disclaimer: As a book reviewer I choose to review a wide variety of genres. I have reviewed this book as I would any work. In reviewing this book I do not make any claims that what is said in this memoir are medically accurate or inaccurate. Nor am I advising anyone to use this book as a diagnostic tool. I am not a doctor, simply a humble book reviewer. The only opinion I give is of the quality of the writing.

About the Book:

The summer before entering sixth grade, Sammy, a bright and charming boy who lived on the coast of Maine, suddenly began to exhibit disturbing behavior. He walked and ate with his eyes shut, refused to bathe, burst into fits of rage, slithered against walls, and used his limbs instead of his hands to touch light switches, doorknobs, and faucets.

Sammy’s mother, Beth, already coping with the overwhelming responsibility of raising three sons alone, watched helplessly as her middle child descended into madness. Sammy was soon diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and later with Tourette syndrome. Unwilling to accept the doctors’ prognoses for lifelong mental illness and repeated hospitalizations, Beth fought to uncover what was causing this decline. Racing against time as Sammy slipped further from reality, Beth’s quest took her to the center of the medical community’s raging debate about whether mental illness can be caused by infection. With the battle lines firmly drawn, Beth searched until she found two cutting-edge doctors who answered that question with a definitive yes. Together, they cured Sammy. Five years later, he remains symptom free.

Driven by her desire to help others, Beth Maloney has infused every page of this triumphant journey with heart and passion. An important story, Saving Sammy is part manifesto, part medical mystery, but is at its heart the empowering and inspiring story of a mother’s determination to save her son, take on the medical establishment–and win.

My Review:

Saving Sammy is a beautifully written memoir of a mother's struggle for her son's health. Maloney, a newly divorced mother of three boys, is picking up the pieces and moving to a new home with her boys, when her middle child begins to display odd behaviours. These behaviours become more pronounced and rituals are added while continuing to become more pronounced and disruptive to everyone in the house. Sammy wants help and his mother does everything within her power to find the help her son needs, including driving out of state for medical treatment.
As a mother of three sons myself, I too would do whatever it took to help my children. While reading this memoir I did struggle with some decisions as well as lack of decisions, yet who am I to judge, I was not living Maloney's life. As a lawyer and guardian ad litem, Maloney was fortunate to have friends in areas many would not, yet she appeared to struggle through most of this alone. Her oldest was placed in a boarding high school, several hours away, while her youngest was in a local elementary school during some of Sammy's worst times. First diagnosed with OCD and later with Tourette's, Sammy never showed signs of improvement. Later it would be determined that his symptoms were caused by a common strep infection leading to what researchers refer to as PANDAS, an extremely contentious point, and one reason Maloney wrote this book, to get the message out to anyone who will listen. Most in the psychological field do not believe this is indeed a cause for a psychological problem, while a precious few cutting edge researchers do, including Maloney and the final team of doctors her and Sammy worked with.
Maloney writes in such a beautifully honest and heart-felt manner, offering hope for other parents who are struggling to help their children. While I am still left with several major questions, including some of the methodology used, I am exceedingly pleased for Beth, Sammy, Josh, and James. If this book can help one parent or child, then it is indeed a success, which is the main reason Maloney has chosen to write and share with the world Sammy's detailed and at times heart-wrenching story.

About the Author:

Beth Maloney is a successful Maine attorney. In addition to representing writers and producers, her practice has focused on representing the best interests of children as their Court appointed Guardian ad Litem, primarily in cases of neglect and abuse. Before moving to Maine, the author was an executive and attorney in the entertainment business in Los Angeles, where it was her good fortune to work with a number of creative and athletic stars. Her experience includes serving as Vice-President of Legal Affairs for Orion Pictures Corporation, producing motion pictures, and handling matters in private practice for celebrity entertainers and athletes including Johnny Carson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal. SAVING SAMMY is Ms. Maloney’s first book. For more information, please visit the Saving Sammy Website.

I received a free copy of Saving Sammy by Beth Alison Maloney to be a part of this tour and offer my honest review of the novel. Receiving a free copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.



Teddyree said...

I love memoirs like this. As a mother of a son with ADHD, anxiety and tourette's who is now 18, and a caring, well adjusted young man I empathise greatly with the struggle for correct diagnosis, treatment and the toll it takes on family life. Thanks for the excellent review

Diane said...

I liked this story when I read it, and could not believe so many doctors had it all wrong.

lisamm said...

Jennifer, thanks so much for this excellent review. It's hard to imagine something so common as strep could cause severe OCD. I'm so happy this mother was able to figure it out and find doctors to help her.

Thanks again for the time spent reading/reviewing Saving Sammy!

Kris said...

Great review and I really like the subject matter. I saw you over on book blogs so came to take a look!

Together We Save said...

Sounds very good! Loved the review!

Shelly said...

Hi Jennifer. I was wondering how you got your neat Review Policy button? Did you make it yourself or have someone make it for you and how did you get it to link to the page in your blog? I'd like to get a button similar to that.

Thanks for your help.

Lisa said...

It's so frustrating that doctors will close their eyes to possibilities. Regardless of whether or not there's concrete proof of strep infections causing OCD and Tourette behaviors, treating this young man for strep made his symptoms disappear. As a mom, that's all I need to know.

Tea said...

Thank you for the review of the book and telling about the author. I love memoirs.