The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time made me feel… sad. That seems to differ from everyone else’s thoughts on the book. I don’t think the book is bad by any means, but I when I finished it I felt bummed, not hopeful.
Christopher has two severely dysfunctional parents, parents that he is stuck with. His own mother abandoned him and no amount of letters can make up for that. His father is verbally and physically abusive to him. His father also brutally stabs a dog. Stop and think about that – he killed a dog in a fit of rage. That’s not a normal act. Stabbing a dog (or any animal) is psychotic. I wouldn’t go near him again if he was my father. But Christopher’s choices are limited and he is stuck with his awful parents. This made me think of all of the autistic children in real life and all of the terrible parents out there. What are the chances that every autistic child has a patient and understanding parent? Zero. I imagine there are autistic children out there that have it much worse than Christopher. In fact, I looked it up and found that 1 in 5 autistic children have been physically abused and 1 in 6 have been sexually abused. Other sources say children with disabilities are twice as likely to be abused than their neurotypical peers. Due to their difficulties communicating, autistic children make perfect targets for predators.
I know that other readers of this book were left with feelings of hope, but I just can’t see it that way. Just because it ended on a semi-decent note doesn’t mean that everything is ok. Christopher’s parents may seem better at the end, but it’s naïve to think that everything will stay ok. There will be more fights, more drama, and more bad parenting.
Then there is college. The book ends with Christopher’s dream of going to college. While people with ASD can and do go to college, succeeding there is easier said than done due to the fact that there are very few colleges with autism support. The UK, where the book is set, does seem to offer more help to autistic students than the US does. But either way, college isn’t a cake walk for someone with ASD (or even for someone who is neurotypical).
I feel like this post may seem really pessimistic, but I think I am being a realist. The book ends so hopeful and that just doesn’t feel real to me. Life is hard for all of us, but it’s especially difficult for someone who is autistic.