I bought this book almost a year ago when I came home for spring break. I picked it up as an impulsive buy and finished reading it in a manner of weeks, taking it in bits and pieces when I had free time.
When I finished it, I initially felt unsatisfied. It seemed like there could be more to the story, and I didn’t quite understand the message of the ending. But many months and experiences later, I think I understand it. It’s interesting how your own life experience shapes your interpretations of other peoples’ stories.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon tells the story of Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year old boy who suffers with a condition unspecified in the book, describing himself as a “mathematician with behavioral difficulties.” A whiz at math and science, Christopher carries himself throughout his day-to-day life in a very logical manner. He isn’t concerned with fitting into the box of everyone else’s expectations; he wants to pursue his curiosities in his own ways, living by a series of patterns and rules which is demonstrated by this quote from the beginning of the book:
I do not tell lies. Mother used to say that this was because I was a good person. But it is not because I am a good person. It is because I can’t tell lies.”
The story starts with the discovery of his neighbor’s dead dog, which leads him to start an investigation in order to find out who committed the crime. The book is written from his perspective, with the chapters labeled with successive prime numbers and detailing his thoughts as he discovers who hurt the dog.
But the story is so much more than his investigation. Christopher is constantly misunderstood by everyone in his life — even his own father, although he tries to practice patience with him. While Christopher is considered quite the genius, the complexity of human emotion is difficult for him to grasp. Oftentimes, other people around him interpret his misunderstandings as insensitive. While he can be frustrating, he explains the world in a way that seems to make perfect sense. Any conflicts he faces in his life are regarded as problems to be solved in ways that are just as intense and powerful as with any other literary character.
But his own emotions become confusing and difficult to handle upon learning about the truth of his mother, who died from a heart attack two years earlier. As someone who already struggles to cope with and understand the world, Christopher’s skills are put to the test. The innate characteristics of human nature — emotions, lies, and intrigue — affect Christopher in a way that is different from anyone else. He regards these human flaws as disruptive to the carefully constructed order of the world. But his experience demonstrates that at our foundation, every person is built on the same emotions even if we articulate and understand them differently.
Like all of the books I’ve discussed on my blog, this one is a must-read. It uses a method of unconventional, but brilliant, storytelling. Not too dense, but not too short. I would reccomend this book to anyone who’s looking to dive into a read that’s a mix of mystery and humor, but still tells a story that is both touching and eye-opening.