About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

#20 - House Rules

More pure entertainment here. Can you tell I needed some lighter diversionary stuff while I worked my way through Pygmy? House Rules is pretty much vintage Picoult, complete with twist ending (not quite up to her usual standards here; I had this one figured out about a quarter of the way through), plucky single mom, multiple narrators, and love interest who initially gets to know the family professionally.

Jacket summary: "The astonishing new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult about a family torn apart by an accusation of murder. 'They tell me I'm lucky to have a son who's so verbal, who is blisteringly intelligent, who can take apart the broken microwave and have it working again an hour later. They think there is no greater hell than having a son who is locked in his own world, unaware that there's a wider one to explore. But try having a son who is locked in his own world, and still wants to make a connection. A son who tries to be like everyone else, but truly doesn't know how.' Jacob Hunt is a teenage boy with Asperger's syndrome. He's hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, and like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special focus on one subject -- in his case, forensic analysis. He's always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do...and he's usually right. But then his town is rocked by a terrible murder and, for a change, the police come to Jacob with questions. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger's -- not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, flat affect -- can look a lot like guilt to law enforcement personnel. Suddenly, Jacob and his family, who only want to fit in, feel the spotlight shining directly on them. For his mother, Emma, it's a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it's another indication of why nothing is normal because of Jacob. And over this small family the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder? Emotionally powerful from beginning to end, House Rules looks at what it means to be different in our society, how autism affects a family, and how our legal system works well for people who communicate a certain way -- and fails those who don't."

In short, not much was surprising about this book, but that was OK. Picoult's one of those authors I pick up not because I expect great literature, but because I want to be entertained for an evening or a weekend. She's got a solid formula for this, and it mostly works. If you like her other books, you'll probably like this one, though most reader reviews agree that it's not her best effort, and has more than a few plot holes. Narrators include the obvious (Jacob; his mother, Emma; neglected younger brother, Theo) and the usual secondaries (Oliver, the well-meaning but inexperienced attorney; Detective Matson, a good-guy detective who's convinced Jacob did the crime). Picoult offers several interesting metaphors about living with Asperger's, both first-hand and as a family member, though I do wish she hadn't harped so much on the whole caused-by-vaccines controversy, and her portrayal of the growing "Aspie" community was downright insulting. Worth a read, but probably not a hardcover (or even new paperback) purchase.

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