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Searingly painful and achingly beautiful, Scenes with My Son is author Robert Hubbard’s exquisitely crafted collection of vignettes honoring his son August—known as Auggie to his family, peers, and community.

With unflinching frankness and deep compassion, Hubbard unveils Auggie’s story: “Our son’s deep capacity for joy and rage epitomized his unique personality. The ancient Aegean adage ‘moderation in all things’ did not apply to Auggie. He was all-in; involuntary passions and impulses ruled him. From infancy to the dawn of adolescence, he lived mostly in a state of joy. ... He occasionally experienced waves of rage, but, overall, the tide of Auggie’s optimistic nature lifted all nearby boats. … The moments of blue rage seemed to his family like a colorful eccentricity. We did not know then that these extreme shifts in mood hinted at dangerous imbalances to come, a portent of the darkling plain from which there was no escape nor help for pain.”

Diagnosed with high-functioning autism in grade seven, Auggie became more volatile. By his teens, “the creeping effect of undiagnosed clinical depression” afflicted him even as he struggled to make his way in school and in society. Sensitive, brilliant, inquisitive, and filled with a deep well of compassion and longing for social justice, Auggie’s hopes for his future included dreams of making life better for people who were poor and oppressed.

From the time Auggie was 15 till his death at 19, he was plagued by suicidal ideation and was admitted to the hospital numerous times. His parents hoped for the best for their son, but feared the worst. Still, in their “house of pain,” God’s grace was evident: “But just as a single candle casts more light in a darkened room, brief relieving moments illuminated the otherwise consuming darkness of these years. Like grace-fueled bonfires, these merciful blazes conquered the night, if only temporarily.”

Hubbard poignantly relates his spiritual struggles as he prayed to God for Auggie’s healing, as well as that of another son also diagnosed with clinical depression. Hubbard comes to understand that “an immutable God may have other designs. Rather than rerouting me away from this valley of the shadow of death, my pleading faith sustains me in it.”

Hubbard’s tribute to Auggie and his narration of his family’s deep pain has much to offer Christians who seek to be the hands and feet of Christ to a suffering world. Hubbard leaves readers with stirring questions: “What lessons can be learned from my curation of stories from Auggie’s life? From his death? From the life after? What, if anything, can we take forward as equipment for living?”

Hubbard’s answers? “Stand up for the marginalized and side with the powerless.” “Practice extravagant kindness.” “Be passionate.” “Keep learning.” “Love art and support artists.” “Live in joy.” Surely a blueprint for following Jesus in his broken, yet redeemed world. (Eerdmans)

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