Name of Book: House Rules
By: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Atria Books (Simon and Schuster)
Copyright Date: 2010
Number of Pages: 532
Reason for Reading: Book Club
“Everywhere I look, there are signs of a struggle. The mail has been scattered all over the kitchen floor; the stools are overturned. The phone has been knocked off its pedestal, its battery pack hanging loose from an umbilicus of wires. There’s one single faint footprint at the threshold of the living room, pointing toward the dead body of my son, Jacob.”
Two years ago I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. It was the first book I ever read from the perspective of an autistic person. Since then, I have been devouring any books I can find written from this perspective, particularly Asperberger’s. When this book came up for book club, I was very eager to read it. I’ve read two other Picoult books. They were very engaging and well-written, not to mention well-researched.
Jacob is an austic young man whose special interest is forensics. He is obsessed with the show Crimebusters and likes to set up crime scenes for fun. Since he received a police scanner for his birthday he has taken to showing up at crime scenes and seems to be better than the police at deducing what happened. Then Jacob and his family’s world is shaken when a young woman turns up dead and the police suspect Jacob.
Picoult does her due diligence on researching for this book. Jacob’s voice is authentic. Out of all the books I’ve read, this one gives the most well-rounded viewpoint from all sides. Not only does she capture the experience of living with autism, but she captures the experience of those around the autistic person. What is it like to be a parent of an autistic child? A brother? A father?
I really enjoyed the depth of the story. I supremely enjoyed the character of Jacob. He is wicked funny without even realizing it. I loved learning all the details of what it is to be him-obsessive focus on one special interest, one color mealtimes, needing sensory breaks, stimming. I learned a lot about autism that I didn’t previously know. The characters were well-developed and felt real, even Jacob’s father, who is mostly absent. I cared about Jacob and was scared for him. I felt empathy for his mother, Emma. My heart broke for his brother Theo.
However, there were a few elements to the story that just plain irritated me. I just didn’t buy the lawyer character. For someone so green, he definitely didn’t use his better judgment. He should have flat out said no and directed Emma to a lawyer better equipped to represent her son. I became very frustrated at times because I felt the dude was bungling Jacob’s case. Jacob deserved better than that. I also was dissatisfied with the ending. I suppose I am hard to please when it comes to the end.
On a side note I’d just like to share a few things about our book club meeting. The hostess for this book is a music therapist and works with autistic kids. She was impressed by how accurate Picoult’s portrayal of the autistic experience for all involved. She really really loved this book.
We had our meeting on a Monday so she did all the food green for Green Monday-green apples with lime yogurt dip, snap peas and broccoli with spinach artichoke dip and a green punch. The book spurred lively and interesting discussion. It was one of the most fun meetings I’ve attended since I joined.