Book Review: The Awakening of HK Derryberry
Title: The Awakening of HK Derryberry
Author: Jim Bradford with Andy Hardin
Amazon rating: 4.9 stars
HK Derryberry came into the world with the odds stacked heavily against him. He was taken from his unmarried mother’s womb three months prematurely when she was killed in a car wreck. After ninety-six days of seesawing between life and death, HK’s grandmother took him home.
One Saturday morning Jim Bradford, a successful businessman in his mid-fifties, happens into Mrs. Winner’s Chicken and Biscuits and sees a nine-year-old’s head pressed down against a black plastic boom box with a crooked antenna and three strips of silver duct tape stretched across the battery cover. He can’t help but notice the long, white plastic braces on each of the child’s legs. Mr. Bradford learns that HK’s grandmother is forced to bring him to the fast-food restaurant where she works, leaving him to sit alone all day at a small table, with only his boom box for company. On subsequent Saturdays Jim feels drawn back to the restaurant to meet with HK and begins spending every weekend with him.
Eventually it becomes apparent that buried beneath HK’s severe disabilities is one spectacular ability. He is diagnosed with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), which involves superlative powers of recollection that enable him to remember everything that has happened to him since the age of three. Less than one hundred people have been diagnosed with HSAM, but none of them have the physical disabilities of HK Derryberry.
Reviewed by: Wendy Strain
Randomly dropping in at the legendary Hollywood Café in Mississippi one night last year, my husband and I shared the joy as a new friend and his business partner celebrated the completion of a big project. Not too long after that, this friend sent me a copy of the finished product, a delightful book that can guide you toward regenerating joy in life.
Of course, the book and its authors make no such claims. The Awakening of H.K. Derryberry is really a book about the amazing relationship that developed between a man and a little boy he met one day, never suspecting this child would change his entire outlook on life. Beginning with the unusual pull that brought their two worlds together, the story reveals, in beautiful unfolding prose, the incredible richness of a life limited by need and capability as well as the surprising empty space in an otherwise rich life of fulfillment and success.
As Jim comes to know H.K. better, he learns the incredible story of the boy’s birth and survival; his blindness since birth; the cerebral palsy; the probable stroke suffered as an infant, partially paralyzing his right side; the asthma that occasionally stole his breath away. Within all these limitations, Jim discovers a magnetic spirit trapped inside the tiny body and the small diner where his grandmother and caretaker worked. His only friends were the sounds coming out of an old radio. As their relationship develops over the years, Jim Bradford is able to introduce H.K. to the world outside the diner as well as how to relate to it, providing H.K. with an unexpected wealth of opportunity and experience.
At the same time Jim is helping H.K. to develop, H.K. is constantly opening Jim’s eyes to elements of the world he’d become blind to, the simple joys of living and the happiness that emerges from within. At just over 200 pages, the book is a joy to read from beginning to end. The story is told with such smooth, beautiful language, you will have no trouble joining Jim and H.K. in their dual experience of awakening. By the end, it’ll be a challenge not to look at life through a brighter lens. That is the magic of H.K.
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