Doug Benson of Thurmont, a first-time novelist, transports a middle-aged man back to his adolescent years in his self-published book, “A Wave of the Wings.”
A two-part tale of time travel, the 274-page book tells the story of Jack, a man in his 50s who is given a chance to go back to his middle school years and change one thing in his life.
He does that with consequences that affect his classmate Luther, who is autistic and at one point bullied him in school, an event Jack did not understand at the time.
The book is available in print and electronic version for the Kindle at amazon.com.
Benson says the novel was inspired by his life experiences and also the insights he has gained living with his son Drew, 21, who is autistic.
Although Drew does not communicate easily through speech, he is able to express his feeings and emotions nonverbally, Benson says.
“He’s always wanted to know what makes you happy, and he wants people to be calm and at peace,” Benson says about Drew, who lives with his parents and three siblings in Thurmont, north of Frederick.
Benson works as a recording engineer at Montgomery College’s Rockville campus, where he documents concerts and performances and also makes CDs for students.
Ten years ago, he wrote a musical called “Andrew Michael” about a family with an autistic son performed by the Thurmont Thespians.
Now in his first novel, he narrates the story of two lives, weaving in various views of autism within a fictional context.
One character is Jack and the other is Luther, who is autistic.
“I wanted to show it from different perspectives,” says Benson, who presents the condition as seen by outsiders, as understood by people who know people who have it, and as experienced by the character Luther, who lives with it.
“A Wave of the Wings” is dedicated to “all the butterflies,” who to Benson are people with autism and those “who know the joy of loving them.”
The title alludes to the question posed in 1972 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology meteorologist Edward Lorenz: Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?
“The tiniest things that you do can make a big change in the world,” says Benson about the ripple effects that ensue in the novel after Jack goes back in time, changing an event that directs the course of Luther’s life and in turn, his own.
People with autism, who despite having difficulty communicating in a typical way, still have a deep and profound effect on people who relate to understand them by other means, Benson says.
“I can look into Drew’s eyes and we can have a kind of conversation,” says Benson.
“There is so much in there,” he says about his son’s inner life and humanity. “There is such a strength in just being.”