Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

I got it all done – two days before Christmas. Wooo HOOOO, I get the reward, a new book! One I had been eager to read, House Rules by Jodi Picoult. (You can read reviews of other Picoult books by doing a blog search, enter Jodi Picoult in my blog’s search window.)

What I really like about Jodi Picoult is that she writes about really tough situations and exposes our ignorance and ambivalence to us. In this book, she writes about a single mother who is raising two sons, one of whom has Asperger’s Syndrome. He is extremely bright, but lives in a world where he is bombarded by too much sensation. He cannot block out sensory input that we learn to ignore, and some of it – noise, colors – in his case, the color orange – or any change in routine can cause him to spin out of control. Imagine a two year old having a tantrum in a grocery store . . . now imagine an eighteen year old young man having the same tantrum. It helps you see what the Mom is dealing with.

Dad left when the second son was born. “It’s too hard,” he said, and left her to cope with all of it.

She gets child support, while her husband is raising his new family a continent away. She free lances as an advice columnist, and edits from her home to supplement the bare bones family existence. She learns to cope with Jacob’s needs, and she advocates for him fiercely, to be mainstreamed in the school system AND to have some special supports to soothe him when he becomes over-stimulated.

Jacob isn’t a burden, although his need for routine – certain colors for different days of the week, including meals – can be burdensome. Jacob is also very very bright, and obsessed with crime scene forensics. He loves setting up “crime scenes” for his mom to solve and the one bright spot in his daily life is the Crime Busters show which comes on every day at 4:30.

And then, suddenly, a life which is already wobbling turns upside down. Jacob is implicated in the murder of his tutor, a young woman Jacob loved working with, who helped him develop an understanding of how people interact and behave. Those who know Jacob understand his quirks and eccentricities are due to his wiring, but Jacob looks very odd, very threatening and even violent to the outside observer – a nightmare client as a defendant.

It is a GREAT read. Picoult keeps her secrets up to the very end; the book is tightly wired and we are given clues all along the way. The edition I read had both a reader’s guide and an interview with the author at the end. It is NOT cheating to read those first! It gives you good guidance on what the author is trying to say, and what may be significant, while not appearing particularly so.

It gave me a great appreciation for parent’s of children outside the realm of ‘normal.’ It gave me an appreciation for the work and persistence and dedication it takes to try to get a more level playing field for their children.

It the book Jacob has some self-awareness, and compares Asperger’s Syndrome to seasonings, and he believes we all have a dose of Asperger’s Syndrome in our wiring, but that some children get a little extra.

January 11, 2011 Posted by | Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Crime, Detective/Mystery, Family Issues, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Social Issues, Values | 2 Comments