By: Mark Haddon
Price: $14 (paperback)
Rating: Five out of five bookmarks
It can be difficult for an author to effectively write from the point of view of a character who has handicaps or ailments the author never had. Even if someone spends time with people who are the inspiration for the character’s traits, how can one write about something he or she can never truly experience?
With this in mind, Mark Haddon, who spent time working with autistic individuals in his youth, does a great job explaining what is going on inside the mind of a person with autism in his novel, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”
The story is written from the perspective of Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old autistic boy who is also a mathematical genius. He wants to grow up to be an astronaut, despite other kids his age ridiculing him and telling him it’s impossible. One night, Christopher finds his neighbor’s dog killed by a pitch fork, and he wants to investigate the murder. His father warns him to stay out of other people’s business, but the boy’s drive to solve the murder mystery of the dog leads him to other discoveries that test his understanding, his courage and the bonds of his family relationships.
We learn about Christopher’s view of the world, and his need to have everything in proper order and to be logical — at least, his own sense of logic, which others in his life often question. For example, one of his counselors asks why Christopher believes seeing a certain number of red cars while riding the bus to school means it will be a good day (Chris only likes the color red), while seeing a number of yellow cars is a bad day (Christopher detests yellow so much, he will not wear yellow clothes or even eat yellow foods).
But this is Chris’s own sense of order, just like other people have their own certain rhythms or habits they go through each day.
Logic can be different between people, and this is the core of why Christopher has difficulty living in a world where other people can’t understand his logic and how important his idea of order is.
He often can be aggressive, even violent, toward those who interrupt his precisely constructed world (particularly when it comes to physical contact), yet by reading the story through his eyes, his view often makes more sense than the impulsive, unreasonable actions of the people around him, including how and why the dog was killed.
Christopher lives with his father, who does his best to look after his son even though he is suffering many personal demons of his own.
The father is supposed to represent someone who is of the “norm” — the one who is supposed to be Christopher’s guardian and link to living in a society the boy cannot connect to.
But the father often acts more irrationally than his son. His emotions come across as abrupt or unprovoked, while Christopher is, for the most part, void of intense feelings because of his need of perfect order (except when his order is challenged; then his emotions burst). Christopher and his father are opposite reflections of one another, and it presents the question of who is, in fact, the one with the more delicate psyche.
“The Curious Incident” is a touching, surprising and humorous tale, enlightening both in that it offers us a point of view we don’t often see, and that it makes the reader question the true meanings of reason and emotion. The presentation is clever and unique, and it is a definite read for anyone looking for a gripping story that you won’t put down once you pick up.