"Exiting Nirvana" is a mother's account of her autistic daughter, Jessy, and Jessy's life from her teens until the time the book was was published, when Jessy was in her early 40s. The way the chapters of the book are presented is different from the norm. Instead of starting with Jessy's teens and moving forward, showing her progress that way, the author divides the chapters into aspects of Jessy's behavior and life: i.e., the way Jessy talks and the ways she thinks.
Of note are the many photographs of Jessy's extraordinary artwork. Interestingly, Jessy's paintings are nearly as precise as a photograph, yet she freely uses imaginative colors that are different than those found on the objects on she paints. Furthermore, Jessy paints everything she sees, even when inappopriate. An early drawing of her father also shows Jessy's foot, and a painting of a house also includes the lightning bolt-like aura that Jessy sees during a migraine headache.
The author spends a lot of time discussing Jessy's obsession with numbers and includes photographs of Jessy's calculations. Much of Jessy's behavior during this time period is mystifying and the author has a hard time explaining Jessy's actions because the author herself found her daughter's behavior confusing. Later chapters, however, are quite well done and give readers good insight into the way an autistic person thinks. At the start of the book, Jessy can not function on her own and is barely verbal, but by the time the book ends she can communicate, has some measure of self-control, is able to hold a job, and is a great help to her aging parents.
This report prepared by E. J. McDonald