“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” — A strange title with an odd cover. This book has been at the library for several years, but I’ve never been drawn to check it out. Through my job as Inter-Library Loan Coordinator, I even obtained multiple copies for a discussion group, but didn’t think it was one I wanted to read. Participating in the Salina Reads selection group, it was one of several we all read, reviewed and discussed. I found it to be enlightening and enjoyable, with enough twists to hold my interest.
Christopher shows us his world, a world about which I know very little. His level of intelligence surprises; his naivety frustrates.I have to admit skipping over some of the pages filled with code. It was over my head.
Since this was set in England, some of the terminology was curious. References to orange squash made me wonder if it was like Orange Crush or an Orange Julius. I’ve been assured by those who know that it is neither but a wonderful, almost addicting drink.
When Christopher is trying to get to his mother’s home and must navigate through the train station, I found myself anxious for him but couldn’t quite imagine what he was experiencing. Living in the middle of Kansas, I occasionally hear the whistle of a freight train or find myself stopped on Ninth Street counting coal cars. A few weeks after reading the book, I was watching the latest James Bond film, “Skyfall.” One of the many chase scenes took place in the underground train system, full of people, noise, chaos — a total sensory overload. As I watched, the thought came to me that this could be what Christopher experienced — without the gunfire and Bond music.
Christopher’s obsessions with patterns and colors bring him comfort. Many of us probably have similar quirks. I’ll admit to counting a lot. Do you know there are 20 steps between the main and lower level of the library? I often count steps while crossing the street to my car. I tried to see how many steps it was to my granddaughter’s school from her house, but lost track at about 470.
Too often when a child is “labeled” it’s assumed he can’t learn. When behavior disrupts, the parents are blamed. We see in Christopher a mind that absorbs everything but processes in a different manner. His brilliance is almost intimidating. While his reactions may seem disruptive, often he’s just exhibiting what many of us feel but have been conditioned to hold our emotions within. Hopefully eyes will be opened by reading this novel. As a community we should become more accepting and understanding and apply that to not only individuals with autism or Asperger’s, but all our fellow citizens. Until we deal with any issue on a daily basis and walk in their shoes, we have no right to judge.
Connie Hocking is the library’s Inter-Library Loan Coordinator and was part of the selection committee for Salina Reads.