TITLE: The Unstoppable Eddie Fugate: A Feel-Good Story of Life on the Spectrum-based on a true story (Kindle Edition)
AUTHOR: Steele, Geoffrey
SUBJECT AREA: Autism-Institutionalization-Narratives
PUBLISHER (for Paperback Edition): Geoffrey Steele
PUBLICATION DATE: 2023
NUMBER OF PAGES (for Paperback Edition) 322
Although The Unstoppable Eddie Fugate is written and promoted as fiction, this book is based on a true story about a red-haired boy with autism who grew up in an unfortunate time when institutions were seen as the only option. It is where this feisty, highly intelligent boy wound up.
The book begins in 2012 when the adult Eddie takes strips of cardboard to measure a refrigerator that he wants; he is about to embark on a highly expensive $750 purchase! The book then segues into the late sixties when Eddie is stuck in an institution called Orient in Ohio where he is confined to a crib at six years of age! The author continues to describe the deplorable conditions that were all too common at that time. Eddie’s feistiness and resourcefulness shone through. He rode his bicycle frequently, but wanted a shelter to keep it dry so he took planks of wood and made a “Donk” house which I thought was absolutely ingenious!
The reader sees institutional life and group home life in detail as Eddie is moved into a group home when he is older. We also learn about the people managing the group home and their lives including a romance between two of the employees.
The detail is absolutely riveting yet disturbing. Eddie always manages to try to control the situation as his communication is limited so he resorts to behavior that is challenging. Because he was not given adequate supports and tools to learn how to be in the world, he reaches adulthood unprepared for the journey, yet he finally manages to hold onto a job at some point.
Like many adults, he has a strong desire to learn how to drive and to own a vehicle though that is yet another challenge. He persists in doing things people think he can’t do such as buying a house and he makes mistakes along the way such as making foolish purchases, but somehow things work out in the end.
I found myself rooting for Eddie and his constant quest to buck the system at every turn as he was stuck with a society and disability service system that didn’t presume competence and viewed autism as a bottom-of-the barrel disability. I was always in Eddie’s cheering section-Go, Eddie, GO!