To Christopher John Francis Boone, a mathematically gifted boy of fifteen with Asperger’s syndrome, his mind is sometimes like a machine, like a bread-slicing machine that isn’t working fast enough but the bread keeps coming and there is a blockage. Christopher knows all the countries in the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He loves animals but is foreign to human affections. He doesn’t like being shouted at or touched. And he hates the color yellow and brown.
One night he discovered that Wellington, the dog next door, was dead with a garden fork sticking out of its body. Since then he decided to investigate on “the murder”, even though to do that he had to cope with the things that were out of his comfort zone. For example, being a “detective”, he had to interact with strangers, and go to new places, these are things that he wouldn’t do under normal circumstances. And even though his father didn’t approve, he kept doing his detective work and wrote everything he’d found in a book, the very book I was reading, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.
This book is so unique because it enables readers to see the world through the eyes of a boy who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. According to Wikipedia, Asperger’s syndrome is is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. People with Asperger’s syndrome often display intense interests; in Christopher’s case he was interested in mathematics and science. His profound interest in math was reflected upon his choice to use only prime numbers for the chapters in his book. Therefore, there isn’t Chapter 1 in this book, but Chapter 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, and so on. Here’s what Christopher said about prime numbers:
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. – p. 12
What an amazing work the author, Mark Haddon, did in this book. While diving into the head of a mathematically genius boy with Asperger’s syndrome, the author provided readers with details as comprehensive as possible. For example, when Christopher was asked by the policeman to empty his pockets, he described every little thing he had in his pockets. Christopher drew the map of a zoo he and his father went to from memory. And the author described what Christopher do to make himself feel calm, which is do math equations and doubling 2’s in his head (he could do that until 245). And he could quickly give answer to 251 times 864 which is 216,864, because “it was a really easy sum because you just multiply 864 x 1,000, which is 864,000. Then you divide it by 4, which is 216,000, and that’s 250 x 864. Then you just add another 864 onto it to get 251 x 864. And that’s 216,864.”
Also, his relationship with his father is an important point in the book. We can learn that special kids like Christopher tends to need time to regain trust to his closed ones (in this case his father) if that person has done something wrong towards him. We can learn that being a parent of a child who has special needs requires not only love but never-ceasing stock of patience. One final note to wrap this review: people with Asperger’s syndrome are special, but they’re still human beings. To love them and interact with them you have to know what’s going on inside their heads. And Mark Haddon had done amazing job in telling us what’s going on inside their heads.
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time”, by Mark Haddon
226 pages Paperback, published 2003 by Vintage Books, a division of Random House
My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥