Friday, November 30, 2007

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

I have seen this book in the bookstore for a couple of years and always been intrigued by the title. Then about a year ago I discovered that it is told from the perspective of a 15-year old boy who has autism. Again, I wanted to read it, but somehow never got around to picking it up. Well, my book group is reading it for our next meeting, so I finally had the necessary excuse to read this book. I am really glad that I did.
The storyline in Curious Incident revolves around a boy, Christopher, finding a dog in his yard who has been killed. As a Sherlock Holmes fan he decides he is going to solve the mystery - hence the title of the book. However, that is the pretext for a much more engaging and fascinating story.
Mark Haddon has done an incredible job giving the average reader an insight into the mind of an autistic adolescent. The writing style, the descriptions, the sense of repetition, the graphics all work together to demonstrate how Christopher copes with the world. This is obviously an extremely smart young man; he is a virtual mathematical genius. But, he cannot separate out unnecessary "noise" in his life. When he is standing in a train station he doesn't just see the few necessary details he needs to get by, he describes every poster and every person because he does not have the ability to filter.
Throughout the story Christopher explains convincingly why he does not like the colors brown and yellow, why being at home is comfortable, and why he would like to be an astronaut.
Having finished this book, I cannot wait to discuss it with a few key individuals - namely a mom I know with autistic sons. I am curious how she views the book - is it true to her experiences? And, a friend who works with autistic children - again, does she find the story to be genuine?
Moreover, it has given me better insight into my own children. I am fortunate that neither of them suffer from spectrum disorders, but I do have a better understanding of some of their emotional outbursts. When a granola bar breaks in half and they are heartbroken and refuse to touch it I get impatient: who cares? But living in Christopher's head, I have a better understanding of how something so seemingly unimportant can take on such grandiose proportions. Maybe I can expand my own patience with my children.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has family members on the spectrum. To me this was much more engaging and much more approachable than a non-fiction description of autism disorders written by an un-empathetic doctor. I feel like I learned a lot more through the personal interaction than I could have at a distance. A quick read that is well worth the time.

No comments: