The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Christopher Boone, an autistic teenager, decides he must solve the murder of his next-door neighbor’s dog, Wellington. Boone is extremely bright, but nearly dysfunctional in high-stimulation environments. He displays a number of the characteristics common among those on the Autistic Spectrum, including: constructing an exacting routine and set of rituals for living, the inability to tolerate deviations from said routines and rituals, and challenges in dealing with emotions and physical contact. The book isn’t really the murder mystery or Sherlock-style crime fiction it sounds like (though it does play on those genres and references Sherlock, a character that appeals to Christopher,) but, ultimately, the book is about the humor and drama of family life as both are impacted by the presence of a special needs child.
The book is humorous, and if you’ve seen TV shows like “Young Sheldon” or Netflix’s “Atypical” you’ll be familiar with the kind of humor – i.e. the humor of the disconnect between how neuro-atypical characters experience / perceive the world as opposed to how “neuro-typical” characters do so. Where this book does a better job than those shows is in its comfort of going just a bit further with the math and science jokes and references, presumably recognizing that readers are likely to follow the thinking a bit better than the average tv viewer. In fact, the book uses diagrams and even the rare equation to distinguish how Christopher sees the world.
What I think this book does best is putting the reader into Christopher’s shoes so that when he is doing something that most of us would consider a routine act of living, e.g. taking the subway, we are as on the edge of our seat as we would be in any hero’s journey that featured monsters and mayhem.
I’d highly recommend this book for all fiction readers. It’s highly readable, engrossing, funny, and, at times, heartrending.
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