It has been an interesting week for finishing a book that has been out a long time because its Broadway adaptation made headlines at the Tony awards.
This book has been on my reading list for awhile, but I am particularly glad that I listened to it because hearing Christopher narrate his story was crucial to understanding who he was. Had I read the novel, I would have imagined my own inflections and pacing, not the pacing and inflections of an autistic British teenager.
Haddon’s novel was published 2003. Big Bang Theory premiered 2007. Both have had a huge impact on the popular understanding of autism with Haddon’s novel breaking the ground, but Big Bang having wider reach. Because I watched Big Bang long before I listened to Curious Incident, I could not help but hear Sheldon in Christopher’s voice. In 2003 Haddon’s portrait of an autistic teen would have been masterful at showing us that a young man who seemed to belong with the special needs children at his school did have special, but different, needs. The boy who screamed in the store because his mother touched him was the same boy who passed his maths A-levels with flying colors. He was also the same boy whose (to us) irrational fear drove him to overcome other (to us) irrational fears to travel to his mother, Odysseus-style.
Although at first I was disappointed that the murder of Wellington was not the mystery, I was intrigued by what had happened to his mother and then by how his mother would respond to a real-life teenaged Christopher whom she had abandoned. As a parent, I agonized with Christopher’s father when he ventured to London to plead with him for his forgiveness and frantically reassured him that he was trustworthy. As a stepparent, I felt his frustration that he had to argue his trustworthiness compared to a woman who had abandoned both son and husband for a neighbor’s husband and a new life in the city.
The Curious Incident was a sweet story. I am not sure I understand its enduring popularity or the pull of its Broadway adaptation (and living in the rural Midwest that will likely remain a mystery). I wish I had gotten to it in 2004.