The Horse Boy – Book

When his son Rowan was diagnosed with autism, Rupert Isaacson was devastated, afraid he might never be able to communicate with his child. But when Isaacson, a lifelong horseman, rode their neighbor’s horse with Rowan, Rowan improved immeasurably. He was struck with a crazy idea: why not take Rowan to Mongolia, the one place in the world where horses and shamanic healing intersected? 

THE HORSE BOY is the dramatic and heartwarming story of that impossible adventure. In Mongolia, the family found undreamed of landscapes and people, unbearable setbacks, and advances beyond their wildest dreams. This is a deeply moving, truly one-of-a-kind story–of a family willing to go to the ends of the earth to help their son, and of a boy learning to connect with the world for the first time.

Buy the Horse Boy on Amazon:The Horse Boy: A Memoir of Healing (Paperback)

Buy the Horse Boy Movie on Amazon: The Horse Boy (DVD)

About the Author

Rupert Isaacson was born in London to a South African mother and a Zimbabwean father. Isaacson’s first book, The Healing Land: The Bushmen and the Kalahari Desert (Grove Press), was a 2004 New York Times Notable Book. His journalism and travel writing has appeared in the Daily Telegraph, Esquire, National Geographic, Independent on Sunday, Conde Nast Traveller, Daily Mail and The Field. He has traveled extensively in Africa, Asia, and North America and now lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, Kristin, and their son, Rowan. In addition to being an ex-professional horse trainer, Rupert is founding director of the Indigenous Land Rights Fund, a non-profit organization that helps threatened and displaced indigenous tribes obtain tenure of their ancestral land.

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Reviews & Press

Telegraph – “Executed with a trace more sentiment, a fraction less ironic intelligence, a degree less fine observation, this book would be unbearable. But somewhere within himself Isaacson has found the rigour to keep in balance his mysticism, his hope and love for his son, and his sheer infuriation at the outrageous misfortune of Rowan’s condition. The result is an elegant, affecting narrative that contrives to transform a riverside poo — Rowan’s first controlled bowel movement — into a triumph of the human spirit.”

Good Housekeeping – “A colorful real-life adventure with inspiring results.”

Publisher’s Weekly – “In this intense, polished account, the parents of an autistic boy trek to the Mongolian steppes to consult shamans in a last-ditch effort to alter his unraveling behavior…. Isaacson records heartening improvement in Rowan’s firestormlike tantrums and incontinence, as he taps into an ancient, valuable form of spirit healing.” “If you are a parent of a child with autism, if you are an educator, a psychologist or a therapist whose work involves autistic children, this book will astound you. It is honest, bold, touching and radical….It suggests that autistics may be gifted in some way, and not in need of a total cure, just a re-patterning of their most socially unacceptable behavior. It suggests something like a miracle, but a miracle wrought of extreme effort and great love.”

Oprah Magazine “Isaacson’s expansive memoir traces his trip to the remote Mongolian steppe with his wife and autistic son, whose behavior begins to improve through encounters with horses, herders, and shamans. Candid and warm, Isaacson’s narration feels like an epic tale told by an old friend.”

Lee Grossman, Autism Society of America President and CEO –“The Horse Boy is a wonderful book that encourages families affected by autism to dare to dream of a better quality of life, even when things seem hopeless. We are thrilled to be working with Rupert and Little, Brown to help raise awareness of autism through this family’s story, and we hope it will inspire other families to find their own children’s unique paths to happiness.”

Dr. Temple Grandin, author of the bestselling books Thinking in Pictures, My Life With Autism, and Animals in Translation“ This is a fascinating book. It is the tale of a family’s journey to Mongolia with their five-year-old son who has autism. The family travels to the northern remote areas and lives with the nomads and herders away from the cities. I loved the descriptions of the nomad way of life, and that they were so accepting of a child with autism. Rowan loved baby animals and the people did not mind when he grabbed a baby goat and climbed into one of their beds with it. During the trip, Rowan developed improved language and behavior. He also had a magical connection with horses. There are many wonderful passages about Rowan’s exploits with a Mongolian horse named Blackie… This is a great book and everyone who is interested in autism, animals or different cultures should read it.

Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter and The Devil’s Highway “Rupert Isaacson has conjured a non-fiction journey that reads like an epic novel. It is a book of endless amazements. The world of Mongolian shamans, the details of adventuresome travel, the mysterious world of autism–all are all amazing. Soon, you realize that the world of horses is mysterious, too–and, yes, amazing. By the time you are in the grip of this book, you’ll see love, marriage, and parenthood as a realm of magic, profound power, and further amazements. The Horse Boy can change the way you see your life, and it’s a terrifically good read at the same time. It feels like a classic.”

Kirkus Reviews “Breathtaking atmosphere, solid prose and stunning cultural observations”

Book Page Isaacson’s journey to heal his son is just that, a healing, not a cure. But he wouldn’t want it any other way. While the author’s purpose was to draw Rowan out of his autism, he came to realize the overlooked gifts it entails. The Horse Boy will leave readers with a new appreciation for autism and the healing techniques of other cultures; like Rowan, they, too, will be changed forever.

Bright Hub “The Horse Boy is a must read for anyone with an interest in children with autism. It is one of those rare books on autism that is interesting, well written and keeps you turning the pages to learn more? I can’t put it down, and it has been about three years since I have honestly been able to say that about any book.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer “Any good travel memoir needs both internal and external journey, and “The Horse Boy” delivers. Will Rowan’s outbursts dissipate? Will they find the shamans of the Dukha? Will Kristin forgive Rupert for dragging them on his meshuga idea of a family vacation? Rooting for Rowan through all this — a “brave little sausage” who leaves no Mongolian baby animal unsnuggled — makes “The Horse Boy” an unexpected page turner.”

Head Butler “I have read many travel books about the East; the combination of the exotic and the spiritual is catnip for me. I’ve never read one remotely like this. Easy to figure out why: The stakes seem higher here — not just personal salvation but the future of a child. You may not have to deal with autism. But the moral of the story is universal. When you’re confronted with a problem that blights your life, don’t just accept it. Do something. If it fails, do something else. And never, never, never give up.”

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International Translations

Chinese (Mainland) – Published by Jiangsu – date to be determined –
Chinese (Taiwan) – Published by Commonwealth – date to be determined
Danish – Published by Bazar Forlag in Spring 2010 –
Dutch –Published by De Bezige Bij in May 2009
Finnish – Published by Tammi in Spring 2010 –
French -– Published by Albin Michel in October 2009 –
German – Published by Scherz in October 2009 –
Hebrew – Published by Modan in June 2009 –
Italian – Published by Rizzoli in May 2009 –
Japanese – Published by Hayakawa in Winter 2010 –
Korean – Published by Magellan in November 2009 –
Norwegian – Published by Bazar Forlag in early 2010 –
Polish – Published by Nasza Ksiegarnia –
Portuguese (Brazil) – Published by Objetiva in late 2009 –
Portuguese (Portugal) – Published by ASA in June 2009 –
Spanish – Published by Urano in May 2009 –
Swedish – Published by Damm Forlag in October 2009 –
Turkish – Published by Bilge Kultur Sanat – date to be determined

Other Editions:

USA Hardcover:

UK Paperback: