catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 13 :: 2005.07.01 — 2005.07.14


Perspective is everything

Mark Haddon’s debut novel is a murder-mystery, but it’s not. Replacing the worn, stereotypical private investigator protagonist with someone a little different. The resulting book is touching, sad, and more than a little ironically funny.

Christopher Boone is an autistic 15-year old living outside of London with his father. His initial quest to find the murderer of a neighbor’s dog quickly blossoms into something else, a mystery that has little to do with dead poodles.

Haddon is a capable writer, but his empathetic take on Boone’s character is the most compelling part of the novel. Christopher is blessed with a near-flawless memory and a stunning aptitude for math and logic, but his psychiatric impairments make him self-absorbed and unable to react socially. Love, friendship and faith are foreign concepts to him. He relates to every aspect of his life as he would a math equation, and anything that doesn’t fit neatly into his logical grasp (i.e. God, romantic love) is immediately rejected.

That said, Haddon doesn’t treat Christopher like an automaton or paint some sort of critical bull?s eye on him. While Christopher finds himself neck-deep in bad situations, the author treats him like a human—flawed, sure, but worthy of love.

The Curious Incident is also a funny book. Written from Christopher’s perspective, he numbers his chapters in prime numbers, uses diagrams and flowcharts to illustrate his adventures, and talks about his dislike for all things yellow and brown constantly. His interactions with others are also heartbreakingly funny; most don’t know how to relate to him, so resort to vulgarities or silence while he takes everything at face value.

Haddon’s novel sparked some questions I’d never pondered. It didn’t provide any answers, but thoughts on people with mental and psychological handicaps in regard to salvation and faith in Christ all bubble in the back of my mind.

This is a good book. Haddon creates a memorable piece of fiction that works well as a conversation-starter.

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