One of the benefits of dragooning your friends into doing the Cannonball Read with you is that they are another great source of book recommendations. I’m not sure when exactly Ale suggested The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time to me, but I have a feeling it was sometime around when she read Marcelo in the Real World last year. Both books feature protagonists with Asperger’s Syndrome, and Ale suggests Marcelo to people who enjoyed Curious Incident.
Audible did me a favor with a sale, and the Book Riot Read Harder challenge includes a task this year of reading a book about a main character with a mental illness so this book skyrocketed up the to-read list. I couldn’t be happier about choosing to listen to this book: not only does Jeff Woodman nail the tenor of a teenage boy, which is crucial in dealing with this book, but he is also able to convey the lack of emotional expression typical of those on the autism spectrum while still keeping the listener engaged (although I’m sure a lot of that also has to do with the way Mark Haddon structured his book). Christopher’s frustrations, social anxieties, and logic made perfect sense to me as I proceeded through the work, and that is simply praiseworthy. I don’t really have another way to describe it.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is the story of fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone who has Asperger’s Syndrome (Asperger’s no longer exists as a separate diagnosis, although it did when the book was published in 2003, so I’m leaving it in my synopsis although now it is considered part of the autism spectrum disorder grouping. The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a great resource, and they have really interesting information about the autism spectrum disorder). Christopher doesn’t like to be touched or meet new people, he cannot make small talk. He is a math whiz who loves solving puzzles that have definite answers and uses them to help calm his mind. One night, he observes that the neighbor’s dog has been killed, since it is not moving and has a large garden fork stuck in its body. Christopher knows this is wrong. Christopher decides to investigate in order to find out who killed the dog, but what he discovers will shake the very foundation of his perfectly ordered life.
This is a crisp novel, I listened to it in just over 6 hours, but every little detail – down to the chapter numbers only being prime numbers, informs the mood and the narrative. The conceit of the work, that Christopher is writing his book as an assignment at school to practice his language skills, allows for the reader to sink into Christopher’s mind and see the story from his perspective. But where the meaning gets made is in all the moments that we see ourselves in the other people in Christopher’s narrative – whether it be the ones who help him cope with life in our weird world, or those that make his life more difficult.