OUT OF SILENCE covers the first ten years in the life of Ian Martin Drummond, a young boy beset by a disabling autistic disorder at eighteen months old. The attendant struggles and joys, progress and setbacks, of Ian and his family unfold eloquently and engagingly as Russell Martin explores the various causes and manifestations of the disease. He takes readers on a journey that parallels a detective story, through neuroscience and the various theories of well-known linguists such a Noam Chomsky. Asking provocative questions all along the way, he seamlessly blends his own story and that of his ancestors in a quest for understanding. What emerges is a beautiful yet gripping portrait of how terrifying the inability to communicate must be and how profound an importance language has in all human lives.
Based on his in-depth research and the experiential evidence gleaned from watching Ian and his family, Martin posits a number of hypotheses about the workings of the brain in regard to speech and language. The roots of theory laid pages before emerge again later in a thoroughly synthesized, highly compelling explanation of linguistic evolution and how the faculty of speech can go awry. Martin is very adept at weaving the disparate threads of scientific discovery, although an index would certainly be helpful for those wanting to go back and reread the more technical aspects of his findings.
Through the telling of Ian’s story, Martin shows language to be necessary in people’s ordering of the world, their means of organizing the reality they perceive, and their most immediate tool of bridging the gap between others to forge some sort of connection. Language is freedom, order, creativity, and as Ian’s disorder inexorably proves, it is not contingent on speech. OUT OF SILENCE is at once lyrical and elucidating as Martin touchingly reveals the complexities of the brain that produce the miracle of language, the legacy of which “is a kind of creature who can reach outside itself, audaciously imagining as much as the universe, inquiring too into things as secret as the soul.”