The Hunt Family seems pretty typical at first. Single mom, doing what she can to make ends meet and create a stable life for her two teen-aged sons – Jacob and Theo. But that is purely at the most surface level. Jacob has Asperger’s Syndrome, which makes life in this household anything but normal. Jacob cannot read social cues. He cannot relate to people or communicate as easily as “normal” people. As part of his diagnosis, Jacob needs routines. Routines like eating only blue foods on Fridays. Watching his favorite TV show at 4:30pm every day. He also obsesses, and his current obsession is forensics and crime scene analysis. This makes things very complicated for him when his life skills tutor is found dead.
It is obvious from page one that Picoult has done it again. She has this way of taking a current event, moral or ethical issue and fleshing it out in a way to make you really question how you would feel or react if put in that situation. The book alternates between different narrators – Jacob, Theo, Emma (their mother), Jacob’s Lawyer and the Detective who investigates the case. It is clear that Picoult has done some extensive research on this topic, and in the author interview at the end of the book – she shares that she has a cousin who is autistic. I am fortunate enough to not have any direct experiences with autism. I count my blessings for that. This is clearly not a non-fiction book, but I still feel like I have learned just a bit about AS and autism. I couldn’t believe all that the mother went through on a daily basis for her son – just to try and keep him from experiencing agitation….. but I understand why she did. She is a mother. You do anything and everything for your child. I wish the book continued on, or had an epilogue so that we could see the different narrators a year or so down the road…. and yes, I think I wish that for every book I read that does not have an epilogue. Sometimes the ending just isn’t enough!
Total and complete sidenote: on Sunday, I participated in a 5K Walk to Support our Troops. During the course, I saw for the very first time in my life a sign that said “Autistic Child”. It was along the same lines as “Blind Child” or “Disabled Child” – just a warning for drivers or people passing by I guess… and hopefully it helps that child and his/her family. I wonder if we will start seeing more of these, or if people will generally become more aware of Autism and these kind of warnings will be unnecessary?
April is Autism Awareness Month, and I am participating the the Autism Awareness Giveaway Hop next week. I will be giving away my copy of this book (paperback). If you are interested in reading it, check in next week to enter the giveaway!
by Jodi Picoult
Washington Square Press, 2010
Source: Purchased New