Archive for May, 2010

House Rules by Jodi Picoult is a realistic view into the world of a family dealing with Asperger’s Syndrome. She illustrates the character with Asperger’s syndrome, Jacob, wonderfully, painting a picture of his keen intellect coupled with his stunted emotional growth. Jacob, and all people with Asperger’s aren’t like the typical autistic children and adults. A person with Asperger’s wants to connect with those around him or her, but lacks the necessary skill to do so.

The story is written from multiple points of view: Jacob’s; his brother, Theo; his mother, Emma; his lawyer, Oliver and a detective, Rich. Despite all the different points of view Picoult weaves a cohesive story with a strong plot and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the end.

House Rules is the story of Jacob and his family, their “normal” life and their life after Jacob is accused of the murder of his social skills tutor, a grad student named Jess.  What follows is a passage from the book:  

“Once when Jacob was ten, we were walking the aisles of a Toys “R” Us in Williston when a little boy jumped out from an endcap wearing a Darth Vader mask and brandishing a light saber. “Bang, you’re dead!” the boy cried, and Jacob believed him. He started shrieking and rocking, and then he swept his arm through the display on the shelves. He was doing it to make sure he was not a ghost, to make sure he could leave an impact in this world. He spun and flailed, trampling boxes as he ran away from me.

By the time I tackled him in the doll section, he was completely out of control. I tried singing Marley to him. I shouted at him to make him respond to my voice. But Jacob was in his own little world and finally the only way I could make him calm was to become a human blanket, to pin him down on the industrial tile with his arms and legs flung wide.

By then, the police had been called on suspicion of child abuse.

It took fifteen minutes to explain to the officers that my son was autistic, and that I wasn’t trying to hurt him – I was trying to help him.

I’ve often thought, since then, about what would happen if Jacob was stopped by the police while he was on his own – ”

Jacob has to have a strict routine in order to function. He has a photographic memory, but watches Crime Busters every day at 4:30 p.m. When his routine is interrupted he becomes agitated and may harm himself or others. He has been known to injure others on occasion. He is a forensic science buff. His reason for watching Crime Busters every day is to see if 1) he can solve the crime faster than the CSI detectives on the show do and 2) to see if the ending of the show will be different. He has over a hundred composition books filled with notes from the various episodes, which have been repeats for quite some time and he subscribes to at least one forensic science magazine. He keeps an overturned fish tank in his room to process prints and sets up elaborate crime scenes for his mother to solve.

After Jess is killed the evidence points to Jacob as her killer. He had an appointment with her on the day she disappeared and she is found with his handmade quilt wrapped around her. As time goes on more evidence mounts against Jacob, including some of his own comments and notes. Did Jacob kill Jess and if he did will he be sent to jail or found not guilty by reason of insanity?

House Rules by Jodi Picoult, copyright 2010 by Jodi Picoult, published by Atria Books a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020 ISBN 978-0-7432-9643-4

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The Bronte Sisters Complete Novels Illustrated is a collection of the works of Emily, Anne and Charlotte Bronte. The only “work” missing is Charlotte Bronte’s Emma. This is because she wrote only two chapters of the work before her death. The rest was finished posthumously by another author.

The Bronte Sisters Complete Novels Illustrated is a joy in that it has all the sister’s works together in one place. It allows for easy comparison between the works and their styles. However, the volume is not without its flaws. It has no footnotes for phrases in French, or those which are out of date; the male characters speak in a manner so flowery and out of character one has to laugh at moments; a religious undertone runs through nearly all the novels, a hazard of both the times and the sisters being reared by a father who was a parson.

I am not going to quote any of the works here since it is a compilation and it would raise one author or work above the others if I were to do so. Let it suffice to say that if you can take into account the volumes petty annoyances, it is worth reading. The novels contained within it are classics and with the exception of their rather flowery speech very well-written. The characters come across strongly and are well-rounded. All-in-all The Bronte Sisters Complete Novels Illustrated is an enjoyable escape.

The Bronte Sisters Complete Novels Illustrated copyright 2006 by CRW Publishing Limited, 69 Gloucester Crescent, London NW17EG.  ISBN 978-1-904919-74-2

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