Paperbacks are a good thing to carry on you during a flight from Salt Lake City to San Diego, especially when San Diego fogs over and you have to redirect to Phoenix when you’re over halfway there. I had time to finish reading Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. I still had time leftover to switch on the satellite TV to the Cartoon Network (long enough to see they were only showing Family Guy, at which point I turned the TV right the heck back off).
I actually started reading back in November but set aside for completely arbitrary and unimportant reasons that had nothing to do with that new Zelda game. Even though I put it off so long, I really liked the first fifty pages or so that I read. Haddon tells the story from the perspective of a young man with a cognitive impairment, similar to portions of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, although with a much clearer understanding of what that sort of condition would actually entail. The result is a choppy, straightforward writing style almost completely devoid of embellishment, which is actually highly engaging and beautiful in its own way.
Additionally, the book is full of nice little touches that really allow the reader to get a good peek inside our protagonist’s head. Christopher fills his story with very clinical and dry scene descriptions (because good books have scene descriptions), but he goes into exquisite detail about mathematical proofs and scientific concepts. Christopher’s faith in absolute science and logic help him to cope with the death of his mother, and he believes he can use these same skills to solve the murder of a neighborhood dog, Wellington.
Christopher’s investigation takes quite a few twists and turns, almost none of which will surprise the reader. The joy in reading comes not from experiencing a good twist, but rather from seeing how Christopher copes with each revelation. Thus, the ending of the book, which really backs Christopher and his whole family into an extraordinarily awkward situation, comes as a bit of a disappointment, as the drama isn’t really resolved. Christopher simply declares his investigation a success and concludes the story with another math proof. The ending certainly feels in character for Christopher, and I can’t help but feel that the author meant something by the abrupt finish that I’m just missing.
In the end, though, a middling ending doesn’t ruin a good book, especially one with as compelling a narrator as Christopher. I’d hesitate to say a person could learn about a specific illness by reading Christopher’s story. His condition is never actually specified and, although it meets certain diagnostic criteria, likely does not fit into a specific diagnosis. There is a lesson to be learned about empathy, as well as the simple beauty of clarity and mathematics.
I would recommend anyone pick up a copy the next time their flight gets redirected.