The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is one of the better little novels I’ve ever read. It tells the story of Christopher, a fifteen-year-old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum disorder. Christopher likes to walk his neighborhood late at night when the world is quiet and seems empty. He likes the solitude, it’s comforting. One evening he finds something quite disturbing, his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, stabbed to death with a garden-fork. His neighbor finds him holding poor Wellington, so of course, she calls the police. Christopher cannot tell lies, Asperger’s doesn’t allow it, he gets to go home with a stern warning to stay out of trouble. Christopher likes dogs, and murder mysteries, he’s a genius with puzzles, so he decides to investigate Wellington’s murder and write his investigation as a novel for a school project.
Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect from this book, but I couldn’t put it down. Haddon masterfully captures the behaviors of a person with Asperger’s. Christopher thrives on logic and order, he’s brilliant with math and solving puzzles. He’s emotionally detached from people, he doesn’t understand the subtleties of emotions and body language. He doesn’t like talking to most people because they do and say things that he genuinely doesn’t understand, which is frightening to him. He loves the idea of being an astronaut living alone in outer-space, he finds absolute safety in solitude. We learn all of this as Christopher narrates the story of his detective work. It’s fantastic how quickly Haddan inspires empathy for Christopher. Behaviors exhibited by people with an Autism Spectrum disorder are often seen by people as extremely odd or even disruptive. They can’t look you in the eye, they cover their ears and rock back and forward. They scream in public for no apparent reason. Through Christopher we better understand the whys of his behaviors, he’s living in a world in which he simply doesn’t always fit.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time isn’t just about a murdered dog, it’s really so much bigger. The story is so compelling because Christopher pushes himself so far out of his comfort-zone, he does things that terrify him. Ultimately, he discovers far more than who murdered Wellington.5 comments
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