In high school, English teachers are all for starting a piece of fiction with a b a n g. It’s a pretty great trend – really. All my favorite books, from Gatsby to The Prince of Tides, have enticing introductions laced with pretty words and sheer suspense. I don’t think I’ve ever stumbled across an introduction as bizarre and compelling as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, so naturally I’ll write about it. As its name suggests, the introduction jumps right into this curious incident.
“It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs. Shear’s house. Its eyes were closed. It looked as if it was running on its side, the way dogs run when they think they are chasing a car in a dream. But the dog was not running or asleep. The dog was dead.” (1)
About 1,000 questions took off inside my brain the first time I read this: What happened to the dog? Why would someone start a book this way? How is the narrator so calm? Weird. Does this explain the upside down poodle-thing on the cover of the book?
Our narrator, Christopher, is a math whiz determined to solve Wellington’s (the poodle-thing’s) murder mystery. Though Christopher is very focused on this mystery, many other mysteries begin to unravel (pretty much unbeknownst to him).
Christopher, though it is never actually confirmed, seems to exhibit many characteristics of autism – specifically Asperger syndrome. Asperger’s is characterized by difficulties understanding social interaction, non-verbal communication, and repetitive/pattern-like behavior. It’s also a syndrome very close to my heart.
A very good friend of mine was diagnosed with Asperger’s mid-2012. She was a server and always had a difficult time understanding jokes customers made, or when fellow servers were frustrated with something. She was absolutely wonderful and had an amazing heart for geography. I’ve always been intimate with my emotions and incredibly understanding of the emotional needs of others, so it was fascinating to have a close friend so detached by Asperger’s syndrome.
Anyway, I thought of my friend while reading about Christopher. While Christopher threw violent tempers and was much less compassionate than my friend, I could understand the most basic “wall” Asperger’s puts up when it comes to emotion.
I really enjoyed this book, and I don’t want to give too much away. Christopher’s language is clear, direct and easy to read. While I never really understood why Christopher acted in a certain manner, it was easy for me to connect with the secondary characters. For example, Christopher’s dad, who sometimes lost their patience trying to understand Christopher and was desperate to find a way to break through his autism, was very easy for me to sympathize with.
The book is also chock full of wisdom nuggets I’m going to share with you:
“Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.”
“I like dogs. You always know what a dog is thinking. It has four moods. Happy, sad, cross and concentrating. Also, dogs are faithful and they do not tell lies because they cannot talk.”
“Mother used to say it meant Christopher was a nice name because it was a story about being kind and helpful, but I do not want my name to mean a story about being kind and helpful. I want my name to mean me.”