Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

By Mark Haddon

Christopher is 15 years old, lives in Swindon, England, and is autistic. This story is told purely from his perspective. One night, Christopher finds his neighbor's poodle, Wellington, dead with a garden fork stuck in its side. Christopher loved the dog and is upset by its death. Determined to find out the mystery of Wellington's murder, Christopher decides to do some investigating. The book that follows is what Christopher writes in his notebook. As the investigation proceeds, Christopher gradually uncovers certain truths about his parents, which creates a traumatic paradigm shift for him. Still, with the understanding he has of his situation, he sets out to do what he deems as right, proving to himself--if to no one else--that, in spite of his limitations, he can do anything.

Never before have I read such an honest and empathetic account of autism. Not once (I think) is the word "autism" used in the book, but it is shown--with pain and with love and with delightful non-sequiturs. I have no personal experience with autistic children, but after reading this book I feel like I was given a window into the way they think and why. Christopher interacts, all the time, with people who don't know he is autistic. They perceive his lack of social intelligence and are off-put by his quirks. Even though we, the reader, have a more nuanced understanding of what is unfolding than Christopher himself does, we see everything from his eyes; so his actions--inexplicable, at the time to those around him--appear completely logical. It was fascinating. It was bittersweet. Most of all, it was empowering to me to learn so much about people like Christopher.

Read it if you haven't!