TO KEEP HIM SAFE
To Keep Him Safe is a moving narrative about overcoming adversity and finding a place of healing for Lillian Hawke, the loving mother of a son who develops mental illness. Her husband, Mitchell, a contractor by trade, wrestles with self-doubt when he sees behaviors in his son that remind him of his troubled brother and lead him to fear the worst outcome. Their son, Danny, is a carefree child until about the age of three or four, when he begins to become more and more socially awkward, withdrawn, and antisocial, although high functioning. Sarah, their youngest child, is a light in the family dynamics, in part because of her close bond with Danny and her calming influence in his life.
Gayle Parish, the author and a professional counselor by training, conveys the doubts, frustrations, chaos, self-discovery, and fear that come with a severe mental health diagnosis and the havoc it wreaks in a young family’s life over many decades. The main character, Lillian, grapples with her doubts and emotional pain as she and her family learn to cope with a special needs child. Danny’s diagnosis leads her to a career in counseling, which enables her to help others, and, perhaps most importantly, to find her way through a myriad of personal and family challenges. Though life is not easy for Lillian’s family, their deep love for each other supports them through situations that would tear many families apart. The family’s journey includes not only dark days but also days filled with light, as when Danny, an artistic savant, communicates in the best way he can – through his art.
The author quietly conveys the heartbreaking desperation of a family coping with mental illness. She shows how every character is affected in a different and unique way. Lillian walks a tightrope in her journey of personal growth, where she maintains a sense of normalcy for her younger daughter, her husband, and her job, while diligently working to keep her son safe. A beautifully and touchingly told story.