The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Since reading Me Before You, I’ve become very distrusting of authors who write characters with disabilities without having that experience themselves.  This is not the case with Mark Haddon and his character Christopher who is on the autism spectrum in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.  Mr. Haddon has had some experience working with young people on the autism spectrum which informed his formation of Christopher, but Christopher’s disability is never the center of the novel.

dogInstead, Christopher’s unique perspective is merely the background to his story searching to find love and autonomy at an important moment in his life.  By not making the disability the central focus point, I think that Mr. Haddon escapes the pitfalls that other authors have fallen into.  The reader becomes aware that Christopher has something unique about him implicitly.  Christopher mentions it in the first few chapters but it quickly becomes clear that this is not what the book is about.

Christopher has his heart set on sitting for the A level exams in math.  However, family drama gets in the way and he learns that in life, even the ones you love will sometimes get in your way.  But through using what power and autonomy that we have available, we can make a new path to our dream.

I appreciated that the young man is never victimized. You almost forget he’s on the spectrum. What stands out is the people who adjust their behavior, not their expectations, in order to relate to him. From a neighbor lady who adjusts to asking yes or no questions, to a police officer who is very clear about his expectations, to the father who clearly understands Christopher and does whatever is necessary to maintain a relationship with his son. It’s a lesson to all of us.

The Money Class

After reading Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, I began to change how I looked at money and how I handle it.  I’ve always liked learning about how to make money work for me and how I can be a good steward with the funds I’m blessed with.  I saw a review The Money Class by Suze Orman here on Cannonball Read.  I was curious to see what Ms. Orman’s theory of money management was seeing as how the reviewer felt it was very relevant to her life.

moneyMs. Orman’s money management philosophy is very similar to Mr. Ramsey’s.  You need to spend less than you make, you need to save for emergencies, pay off your debts, and start investing in your retirement.  The big difference between the two, and one that I greatly appreciated, is the Ms. Orman allows for fun.  She believes that while you are paying off your debts and putting your finances in order, should you choose to go on a vacation, you need to save up.  From my understanding, Mr. Ramsey takes a much more grim outlook that says no vacations until you’ve paid off all of your debts.  While I know that going on vacation isn’t going to help me pay off my debts, it’s something that can help keep the money management process going.

As a whole I think this book functions best as a reference guide for money management. I wouldn’t read it cover to cover like it did. Whole chapters didn’t apply to me, like how to manage money during retirement. Or how to start your own company. But those sections had good advice that when applicable are valid. I did appreciate the sections on knowing where you stand financially and the steps to take to begin building a fiscally stable estate and plan for retirement.

Modern Romance

I’ve been a fan of Aziz Ansari since I saw him on Parks & Recreation.  When I saw that he had written Modern Romance, I at first thought it was going to be his memoir.  I was surprised when it was a book focused on researching how modern individuals find and maintain relationships.  Because my expectation was so different I wasn’t sure what to expect.

modernWhat helped ease me into the book was the fact that Mr. Ansari takes his own personal experiences with modern romance and uses these as a jumping off point for the book/research.  Mr. Ansari keeps his comedic voice throughout the book which keeps book from becoming too heavy, but doesn’t oversimplfy the topic either.

Mr. Ansari paired up with a sociologist and they explored the different facets of modern romance.  While I may be a Millenial, I felt out of touch with what they consider modern romance.  I met my wife at college and the most modern aspect related to our relationship was talking on cellphones and skyping during the two years we were at different schools and states.  That was hard enough, but I can’t imagine trying to find my future life partner using an app.  I can barely handle texting friends and worrying that they think I’m a weirdo.

 The conclusion brought out one of the most important points, in my opinion, and that is while technology may help us expand our pool of possible romantic partners, we can never substitute face-to-face human interaction for text messages and swipe-rights. I like Ansari’s point that behind each picture and text message is a real person. Treating people as such will long a lot further than superficial “wsup” and “hey” messages.

And Then There Were None

Several students at my school developed an idea for starting a student-led book club.  Being the English teacher, I was the obvious choice to be the sponsor for this group. While it’s just one more thing I’m juggling, this was something fun and worthwhile.  The leaders decided to select a theme for each month and this first theme was “Thriller”.  So they decided on And Then There Were None.

I’ve read Murder on the Orient Express, but no other Agatha Christie.  I was looking forward to reading None because my wife had read it and I like nonelocked-room mysteries.  It’s a goal of mine to try and figure out who did it before the conclusion of the novel.  Sadly, it’s yet to happen.  However, I did narrow it down to 1-in-3 characters.  So I’m counting it as a win.

The book takes place on a island off the coast of England.  10 individuals receive invitations to spend the weekend at this mansion on the island.  As the group assembles on the dock to take the boat to the island, they realize something is odd.  None of them know each other, although some have heard of each others’ names.

Beginning the first night, one to two of them die each day.  From the beginning they all realize that someone is punishing them for past crimes.

What started out as your basic whodunnit, Agatha Christie ratchets up the suspense until by the end even I was ready for catharsis. Very few books are able to achieve the sense of fear in me but this one did. Well done, indeed, Ms. Christie!

Just Mercy

I don’t read a lot of books about law, fiction or nonfiction.  I tried The Firm and it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  When my book club picked Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  We had paired this book with our discussion of Between the World and Me.  The one element of Just Mercy that really piqued my interest is that one of the central cases that Stevenson takes on is in the town where Harper Lee lives and is the setting for To Kill a Mockingbird.

Bryan Stevenson studied law at Harvard and wanted to use the law to better the world around.  He worked with a non-profit law firm that worked in the South that provided legal aid to prismercyoners on death row.  After graduating, Stevenson worked with the firm full time.  The central office was in Atlanta, but Stevenson started working in Alabama and eventually opened up an office there so he could be closer to the prisoners he worked with.

As his experience unfolds, I was shocked to realize how important good representation is when you’ve been accused of a crime.  So many of Stevenson’s clients were on death row because their public defenders didn’t do their job, or didn’t know how to properly defend their clients.  It’s scary to think that your life could be lost because your lawyer doesn’t file the right paperwork.

Another disturbing statistic is that the vast majority of those on death row are Black men even though they are a minority in Alabama.  It’s disturbing to know that a system that should protect citizens, ends up unfairly prosecuting one group.  Stevenson gives background stories on several of his clients and it’s horrifying and enraging to know that the justice system, from local police to the Alabama Supreme Court, demonstrated racial bias.

Stevenson weaves the details about the injustices that happen more often than I knew in the U. S. Justice system into a narrative that is engrossing and eye opening. It’s hard to miss the irony that the very town that “To Kill a Mockingbird” wrongfully convicted a modern Tom Robinson, with an all White jury. It’s so absurd it’s hard to believe. I highly recommend this read.