Title: Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero
Authors: Michael Hingson and Susy Flory
Publisher: Thomas Nelson – Kindle edition
Exactly what I expected from this book, I’m not sure. Is it a good 9-11 story? Yes, indeed—a bit unnerving, even, at times, although there was certainly no question as to the outcome: Michael and guide dog Roselle obviously made it out alive, along with Michael’s friend and co-worker, David Frank.
But suspense was never the point; the point was how they made it out and how that story ties in with Michael’s life-long blindness and what we can all learn about blindness and interacting with blind people, as a result. At least, I think that is the point; I found myself wondering, many times, just what the main point of the book really was: Was the main point that they survived, despite Hingson’s blindness, by walking down almost 1500 stairs in Tower 1? Or was the 9-11 story the vehicle through which Hingson and Flory could educate the masses about blindness and how sighted people can interact with the blind without looking, ourselves, like total idiots?
I think the latter option is true; certainly, that is how it turned out. I learned a lot from the book, not the least important point being that blindness does not render a person deaf, unintelligent, or incapable of doing anything for him- or herself. Not that I thought it did; yet, many sighted people act as though any or all of those are true. According to Hingson, blindness is not the tragedy many of us think it would be, if we were suddenly to lose our sight. Still, I suspect it would seem more tragic to me, at this stage of my life, that if I had lived with it from birth. But according to Hingson, putting up with the ignorance of most of the public with regard to blindness and dealing with the blind is perhaps the biggest hurdle a blind person faces—and faces virtually every day.
Thunder Dog is worth reading, if only for the chance to learn a wealth of information, in one volume, about blindness and how to interact with blind people without robbing them of dignity and looking like an idiot. But the format--the interweaving the 9-11 story with Hingson’s life experiences as a blind child, adolescent and adult—often felt disjointed to me. I often found myself really “into” whichever part of the total story I was reading, only to be jerked back to the alternate story with little or no transition. I’m not sure whether a single volume with Parts 1 and 2—the two main story lines of the book--would have worked; it may be that the connections would be lost, altogether. Most likely, all that was needed were smooth transitions—easily followed segues.
I am a re-reader; I often turn to books I have previously enjoyed and read them again and again and…you get the idea. I am glad I read this book, but I don’t know that I’ll read it again. I do think you should read it, and maybe give it to someone who has a need to learn about blindness to help him or her cope with the blindness of a loved one, a co-worker, or some other person.
It might be a good gift (it is available in audiobook format, unabridged) for someone who is losing or has lost his or her sight, and feels devastated. I suggest this because Hingson also says that far too many blind people believe the negative misconceptions about their blindness and allow that to limit their life experiences, unnecessarily. If hearing the book will help them live a fuller life, then it’s well worthwhile.