How does an author make us feel connected to a narrator who has Asperger’s Syndrome–who can’t understand others’ emotions, who can’t deal with anything out of his ordinary routine, who, as a part of his compulsive behavior, will eat red food, but hates the colors yellow and brown, and finally, who screams when touched?
It happens in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Christopher Boone is a fifteen-year-old English boy who finds his neighbor’s dog dead, stabbed through with a pitch fork. As he loves to solve puzzles and has incredible powers of recall, Christopher decides to use the methods of his hero, Sherlock Holmes, to solve the murder mystery. His wonderful teacher suggests that he write a book. Without understanding what he is doing, Christopher uncovers family secrets and emotional turmoil as well. He must be brave as well as analytical.
Reading this book is very similar to reading about a culture different from your own. It will result in compassion and a better understanding of people who are ‘different’ from you. (Maybe you could get your English teacher to agree to let you read this as a ‘multicultural’ book!) You will sympathize with Christopher’s parents, who love him, but must not touch him, except in a fingertip ritual that lets him know they care. The narrator’s love of numbers is simple fun for those of us ‘math-anxiety’ folks (the chapter headings are prime numbers only). For people who love math, there is an appendix of math problems. The novel is an interesting use of point-of-view and its author, Mark Haddon, has done a great job of using a narrator who, while he can’t achieve emotional insights himself, leads the reader to them.