Ever since reading the masterful The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, I have sought another book told in a voice similar to that of the Autistic child in the The Curious Incident . I have finally found an equal to Mark Haddon’s wonderful story. The author seamlessly weaves storylines together while telling them through two unique voices. In a Q & A with S.J. Bolton, on of my favorite authors, she suggested I read this novel. I am glad I picked it up as it is one of the best books I have read in many years.
Our main character and unlikely detective, Patrick, is a college anatomy student and lives with Asperger’s syndrome while his mother suffers the fallout of the disorder. Since the death of his father, Patrick has longed to know what happens to a person when they die and where it is that person goes. In his words,
“Death was an inverse Big Bang; an impossible magic trick where everything had become nothing in the very same instant, where one state had been replaced so completely by another that no evidence of the first could be detected, and where the catalyst had been vaporized by the sheer shock of the new.”
He believes that the answer lies inside of the dead human body so naturally, dissecting a human body as part of college study will provide the answer. As the semester progresses, Patrick becomes obsessed with the cause of death of the Cadaver and mystery is born. In a parallel storyline, we view the world through the eyes of a coma patient and we learn of startling behaviour in the coma ward. Unfortunately, he lacks the ability to express his observations. Eventually the storylines converge and secrets are uncovered both in Patrick’s “investigation” and in his own home.
While this novel is reminiscent of the Curious Incident it is by no means a clone. The story is told though the black and white and emotionally challenged voice of a Asperger’s patient. As he is unable to appreciate nuance, sarcasm and most emotional reaction, the reader is left amused at the situations created and enlightened by the observations of this unique individual. In the parallel story, we see the world through the eyes of a coma patient. As he cannot interact with and examine his surroundings, the reader is left intrigued with his conclusions as we are never sure if when can trust what he saw. These voices tell a story from points of view that will be foreign to the average reader. As such, the view is intriguing, enlightening and entertaining.
There’s a Story Too!
This novel is not a one trick pony. While the story is largely driven by these two unique characters, the plot is not left to suffer. It is only the singularity of focus afforded by Patrick’s disorder that allows him to see a mystery where others see nothing. The book also deals with the complicated family dynamics brought on by the disorder and his mother’s difficulty in dealing with same. The issue is explored with humour and levity and avoids melodrama. The final scenes between Patrick and his mother are both absurd and touching. While the character’s personal life may not resolve in a manner that the reader would find satisfactory, it is resolved in a manner that Patrick understands and accept. Honestly, you have to read it to appreciate the seemingly absurd honesty and acceptance of Patrick.
I really have nothing negative to say. If you hated The Curious Incident I doubt you would like this one. While the character in this novel is older and the subject matter more adult focused, the thought process and voice of the MC is similar.
This is easily one of the best books I have read in many years. If you enjoy mystery, stories told from unique perspectives mixed with brilliant writing, than this is the book for you. I give this one my highest recommendation. Looking to be my top read for 2014. Going to take a great read to knock this one down a peg.
As this was one of about six books I read over a week long vacation, I am bit fuzzy on the content specifics. Please be aware that these are likely to be less accurate than normal.
Scale 1 – Lowest 5 – Highest
Sex – 2.5
There is a minor sub plot that involves an affair. One character discusses sex in non graphic terms. There scene in which a character is exposed as being a lesbian as was caught having an affair with another woman. It was not graphic. There was some innocent sexual tension.
Language – 3
To play it safe, I am giving this a three. There low use of mild language and some low use of the f-word. The usage of all adult language was generally low.
Violence – 2.5
While not strictly violence, there was some rather graphic descriptions of an ongoing human dissection as part of a university anatomy class. It was not told in gory terms but in the MC’s straight forward voice. There is mild-moderate graphic depictions of murder. The murders were not violent in nature. While this seems contradictory, a reading of the book will clear up this point.