Dispatches from Ray’s Planet 2021-06-16T12:25:57-07:00


Dispatches from Ray’s Planet: A Journey through Autism can be ordered from your local bookstore, directly from the publisher Caitlin Press, or from Indigo and Amazon.

On the Sunshine Coast, it’s on the shelf at Talewind Books in Sechelt.  (They deliver to Gibsons weekly!)

I am happy to see Dispatches purchased from any bookseller, but I am encouraging readers to support their local independent bookstores if possible.  The independents have taken a huge hit during the pandemic, whereas Amazon has not!

Reviews and Media

Thanks to Tom Sandborn for this insightful review:

Book review: Taking a deep dive into the mysteries of human consciousness

Double character study traces evolution of the relationship between author and her bracing, unconventional brother

Claire Finlayson’s brother Ray is different. Some call him eccentric, others think he is tone deaf to social propriety and plain rude. Others think he is on the autism spectrum or suffers from Asperger’s syndrome.

One thing is certain: He has not mastered the many implicit rules and conventions of small talk, and time spent with Ray can be full of shocks and surprises.

For most of her life, Finlayson has struggled to understand and connect with her beloved, baffling brother. Dispatches from Ray’s Planet is a fascinating and well-written account of that effort, and a compellingly drawn character study.

Actually, make that a double character study. While Ray, with all his eccentricities and his scorn for the neurotypical masses and our baffling social rules — he refers to it as speaking “Goongbalong” — is at the centre of this book, Finlayson also gives the reader a nuanced and sophisticated sense of her own character, and how it changed over the years of her attempts to understand her brother.

Both Ray and the author are presented as rounded, complex characters with flaws and strengths, foibles and failures, triumphs and terrors. The narrative is well paced, and the prose is polished.

The reader learns not only of embarrassing moments with Ray, but also of his love for free diving, music, chess, poetry and for children, for many of whom he is a cherished playmate, tutor and companion.

This is a book that will enthrall readers who have loved Donna Williams’ Nobody Nowhere, the classic memoir from a woman who literally wrote herself out of autistic isolation. Other readers may be reminded of the fierce spirit and comic inventiveness of Sarah Kurchak’s I Overcame my Autism and All I Got was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder.

But let’s give Ray the final word. On his sister’s webpage, he writes: “Claire makes me look more interesting than I am, but I think you’ll enjoy these stories anyway — and learn something, too. We Aspies do not think of ourselves as ‘broken’ — but we do know that we are very different from you natives. Do not try to ‘fix’ us (we think it is you who are broken), but please understand that we really don’t want to upset you even if it seems we are doing it on purpose. We aren’t. We just don’t understand your game.”


Dispatches ended up in the hands of Christopher Havens, an inmate in a Washington state penitentiary serving a life sentence for murder. During a stint in solitary, he discovered a profound love for mathematics (and he’s pretty good at it, too). This was the first step in completely reorganizing his life and priorities. He now helms the Prison Mathematics Project, in which inmates seeking to improve their lives and reduce their risk of ending up back in jail are paired with “outside” mentors.  Ray is now one of those.   For Pi Day 2021, the theme was “Human Flourishing,” and Christopher invited me to read about Ray’s patience and dedication as a math tutor.

The title of my half-hour presentation is TEACHING THE MATH-HESITANT: A CASE STUDY. You can find it here.

Watch the Book Launch for Dispatches - In Conversation with Michael Maser

Understanding different – Coast Reporter review of Ray’s Planet

Dispatches from Ray’s Planet: A Journey Through Autism (Caitlin Press) is the fascinating story of a man who free dives through the thermocline, swims naked across the Rhine, inhales the miraculous intricacies of math, science and nature and creates his own version of a Dead Poet’s Society…

Read the full review

Ray was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum later in life. For years he held a job as a letter carrier for Canada Post, until painful foot problems made it impossible to walk his route. Today he tutors kids in math. Writing about his feelings was always easier than speaking. There is still a big gulf between him and the neurotypical world. This book will provide insights into how Ray’s thinking processes are different. I love Ray’s quote about math – “When you prove a theorem by yourself, you stand equal with the first person to have proven it. Pythagoras and I are brothers. The truths of math are absolutely true, they are not subject to dispute or interpretation or revision. In a world of noise and pointless going around in circles, math gives us clarity and certainty.” The entire book describes Ray’s struggles with a world that is not logical and clear like math.

Temple Grandin

Professor, Department of Animal Science
Colorado State University

The Coast Reporter

[Finlayson] is a great storyteller, skillfully blending her extensive research on autism, input from family and friends, and her own observations with Ray’s complicated reactions to her findings, provoking laughter, tears, and a compulsion to turn the page.

Ray’s Planet provides first-person proof that a little bit of perspective truly goes a long way.

It demonstrates just how little credit we give to individuals that don’t follow the complex social rules we live by, and how easily we miss brilliant, empathetic, insightful and kind individuals – like Ray – who have weak social radars. We miss out when we don’t occasionally pause to see the world from another’s point of view. If we did, as this book so vividly and humorously shows, the world would be a more inclusive place.

I laughed out loud, I welled up with tears and I anxiously braced myself for what I knew would happen next.

If you know, work with, care for, rub shoulders with or want to help someone who just doesn’t view the world the same way as the majority do, then do the minority a favour and read this book.

Lana Babich
Social Cognitive Specialist
Suped Up Social Skills

People with ASD often struggle to put their inner experiences into words, especially in a way that those who are neurotypical can understand.  This book fills a valuable role in helping us better understand the thoughts and feelings of someone living with ASD as it looks at the world through two very different lenses. One demonstrates the empathic perspective of a sister struggling to understand her brother, and the other shines a light on his perspective and observations about life, people, and society.

We learn most about ourselves through the eyes of others, especially when those eyes see things from a perspective that is unfamiliar to us. This book provides an opportunity for those of us who are neurotypical to learn about the inner lives of those with ASD. It holds a mirror up to the way we make assumptions without thinking about others and allows those with ASD to see others like themselves.

Paul Dagg MD FRCPC
Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry
University of British Columbia

This book has really captured how an individual with autism thinks and interacts with the world. For me, as a psychologist and special education teacher, it has brought to life the “clinical descriptors” of autism that I try to communicate in the reports I write.  I find the stories and examples absolutely fascinating. I will re-read this book several times … it is so rich in real life examples!   In addition to reading it from a clinical perspective, I also read it as a story about Ray, and the pain he has endured over the years … it gets me deep inside!   What a powerful book! on so many levels and fronts.

Deborah Amaral, Ph.D., R. Psych

Congrats Claire, this is an important, compelling tale, made especially poignant by that correspondence with Ray you saved and the insights, actions and reflections arising from your relationship. This adds up to a dialogue that has deep implications, IMO, as an important phenomenological treatise for a wide audience of parents, siblings, friends, care-givers and academics.

Michael Maser, MA, Bed, BA, BSc, PhD (Candidate)

I’ve just eaten up your book in two or three sittings and I absolutely loved it!  It made me laugh and cry and every page shone with your graceful style, wit, dexterity of language and your passion for the subject.  I confess I wasn’t sure what exactly the purpose was of publishing Ray’s life in such a way.  But your storytelling skills, knitting it all together with your research and arriving at the beautiful conclusion has answered that question.  My eyes have been opened not only to Rays’ situation, but also to others with the same row to hoe.  What a great story!  The action flowed smoothly, the back-and-forth of your email correspondence built strong characters, and the result was a very enjoyable read.  I’ll be recommending this book to my book club.

What a fine, fine piece of work, Claire, and hats off to Ray for letting you go for it!

L.  King

Temple Grandin brought society to cognition, acknowledging ASD a way of thinking.

Your book is bridging Temple’s work in ASD by bringing it to Joe Public’s comprehension and understanding.

I hope to help JP on this side to recognize the gift society is being given.

Anonymous (undiagnosed adult autistic person)

Poor Ray. It must have been hard enough to know that each week your writing group was dissecting his life. But this next stage must be rather like lying on the operating table fully awake while hordes of masked and gowned people approach wielding knives! He is very brave.

However, I’m quite sure that everyone who reads the book will want to know this exceptional person.

Betty Keller, Author and Editor

I believe Dispatch’s from Ray’s Planet is up there with the best books in Asperger’s literature written to date.  I honestly haven’t even been able to get through a couple of the popular books out there, even one of the ‘A’-list types. This one I read twice…back to back…almost in one sitting.

It has bridged the divide between ‘Aspies’ and ‘Typicals’ in a way I have not come a cross before. Claire Finlayson has shown the best grasp of the Asperger’s Planet I have ever read. This is an important book. This is my top recommendation for real everyday families struggling with Asperger’s, especially a late diagnosis. And not because it solves all our problems in one magical reading, it’s just real. Of course I love their work and am thrilled they have ‘Made It’, but Ray wasn’t John Elder Robinson or Temple Grandin. There is something special about the real story of an everyman hero who has won, but often fails.  To have it told by a ‘Neurotypical’ in a way that I could resonate with both sides was special. This is the story I personally recommend to anyone.


I greatly enjoyed reading this book. It was insightful, witty and educational. This is a book that can help us look at the world through another’s eyes and helps us on our journey as we all seek to understand each other better.