Jodi Picoult places us in the life of a boy with Asperger's syndrome which is often considered a high functioning form of Autism. People with this syndrome often have trouble functioning socially, repeat behaviors, get fixated on certain subjects and are quite intelligent. It may be difficult for them to choose a topic of conversation, their body language may be off, and it also may be difficult for them to recognize that the other person has lost interest in the topic of conversation. They have a tendency to speak in monotone, and may not respond to other people's comments or emotions. They may have difficulty understanding sarcasm or humor. In this novel we can see the painful effects that Asperger's has on a family. Jacob Hunt who is one of the narrators in this book is affected by this condition and is fixated on forsenic crime scenes; creating them and sovling them. Think CSI...
His Mother Emma is a single parent of two sons and their Father has not been in the picture since Theo was an infant. She is struggling to keep a roof over their head and to raise two teenage boys.
Theo, her youngest, is striving to be a "normal" child with a "normal" family in a home that is anything but "normal." He realizes that he is supposed to make exceptions for Jacob; it's one of their unwritten house rules. The Hunt family actually has their own set of rules all based on respecting Jacob’s special needs and keeping things as normal as they possibly can.
Jess, a college student who is Jacob's social tutor, is murdered and the drama ensues. All the evidence, a string of unrelated events and facts, seems to point clearly to Jacob - or to his brother Theo who has a habit of breaking into houses. The chief of police, who is forming a relationship with Jacob's mother, believes he did it and arrests him, but does make allowances for his "quirks."
Picoult, as she always does, creates a very realistic world for her characters. The exposition draws the reader into their lives, making them by various degrees sympathy or not. She imbues them with life and gets the reader invested in the outcome. Layer by layer Picoult builds the tension, and the answer to who committed the crime hangs in the balance.
I loved reading this book, even though it can be heavy going at times with such complex issues being played out. The ending though left me feeling a little bereft. To me, it initially felt a little sudden – with a lot left unsaid.
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