Riding shotgun alongside Stacey Cohen-Maitre and her son, Asher, in her memoir Asher and Stacey’s Magnificent Road Trip, readers are treated to the coastal California drive of a lifetime. It’s an incredible journey, rich with tender anecdotes and truly touching moments. Before we unravel the ups and downs of their West Coast quest though, it seems entirely necessary to introduce you to the two warm and inspiring catalysts for our adventure.

The author, Stacey, is the pilot of “the ice cream truck,” which she lovingly uses to refer to the large, white adaptive van she and Asher travel in. Stacey is also a clinical neuropsychologist, which plays a massive role in her superb parenting of Asher and provides the reader with ultra-pertinent information about Asher’s myriad of disabilities.

After being born nearly three months premature, Asher experienced a severe lack of oxygen to his brain, among several other health problems, ultimately leading to diagnoses of cerebral palsy, spastic quadriplegia and cortical visual impairment. These conditions left Asher non-ambulatory, wheelchair-bound, nonverbal, legally blind and completely reliant on Stacey for everything from brushing his teeth to using the bathroom. What his disabilities cannot claim, though, are his fierce love for his mother and even deeper affinity for riding the large, shiny elevators in high-end department stores (Nordstrom is his favorite!). Lucky for Asher, this road trip is full of both.

While Stacey’s husband Mark and their other three children are visiting relatives in Louisiana, this pair sets their sights on some of California’s largest and swankiest malls, breathing in the coastal breeze and the promise of endless elevator rides along the way. Asher expresses his excitement through a series of “oohs” and “aahs,” which Stacey has come to understand are expressions of pure joy during their nearly two decades as mother and son. After a full day of riding elevators and whizzing around the mall’s spacious corridors, the two return to their hotel room for a restorative night in — or so they hope.

Stacey is on hand to answer hourly wake-up calls from Asher, usually requiring a glass of water or pillow adjustment, in addition to the intense task of bathing Asher and getting him ready for bed. Now without her husband to assist her, Stacey’s own physical and emotional limits are tested as she proves to both herself and the reader how incredibly strong she is — especially when Asher’s life is on the line.

During the middle of the night, the story takes an emotional and jarring turn, which may or may not have left me sobbing on my living room couch, wanting to give both Asher and Stacey the biggest hug ever. Throughout the rest of the story, it is difficult to not draw back to this single event, wishing so badly that things could be the way Stacey dreams for the pair.

After finishing this memoir, it’s almost impossible to not well up — both with intense hope and more tears. Asher and Stacey are the most lovable duo and the perfect example of unconditional love and support. The only thing a reader could possibly long for after turning the last page is another chance to sit in the passenger seat of the “ice cream truck” and breathe in just a few more California breezes with Asher and Stacey.

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Stacey Cohen-Maitre, Ph.D. is a licensed doctoral-level psychologist and pediatric neuropsychologist specializing in the assessment and treatment of children and teenagers with developmental and learning disabilities as well as attentional disorders.

Dr. Cohen-Maitre’s research in the area of Cortical Visual Impairment is considered a classic in the field. She is also the founder of the charity, A Moment to Breathe, which provides relief to parents and caregivers of persons with developmental disabilities.

She is also on the professional advisory board for the non-profit charity, Shane’s Inspiration and has been a professional consultant for United Cerebral Palsy.

Dr. Cohen-Maitre is the mother of four magnificent children, all with unique and special needs. She is also a leukemia survivor.

Asher and Stacey’s Magnificent Road Trip is Stacey’s first novel.