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Thursday, August 6, 2015

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

I have been meaning to read another Jodi Picoult book for quite some time and finally decided that I would try House Rules.  I listened to it on audio and it was quite a chunkster in that regard - 19 hours and 55 minutes.  It was narrated by several people - Mark Turetsky, Nicole Poole, Andy Paris, Christopher Evan Welch, and Rich Orlow.  I thought all of them did a good job with their respective characters.  So, what did I think?  I was mostly pleased, interested, and intrigued.  About like other Picoult books that I've read.  Well, I think that I was mesmerized by the first one I tried, The Pact, but that was the first and then I realized that this author has a way that she tells her stories.  And I like her way mostly, but I can't read them too close together or they do start to annoy me slightly.

House Rules is a tale of a family - a mother and two sons.  There's a father, of course, but his involvement in his sons' lives has been minimal.  Emma Hunt is the mother and she has one child, Theo, who is 15 and 'normal', and one child, Jacob, age 18, who has Asperger's.  Life is difficult or rather life is challenging, but it follows a predictable pattern because of Jacob's needs.  He is incredibly smart and gifted.  He also has all the hallmarks that over the years have become pretty well known regarding this neurodevelopmental disorder - need for structure, order, lack of social skills and empathy, sensitivity to stimuli of all kinds, obsession with facts and topics and on and on.  And Theo, well, he's a boy who lives in a family who eats blue food on Friday's and has a mother who has to devote most of her time and money to her other child - not because she doesn't love Theo, but because Jacob's condition makes things more urgent.

As our story begins, Jacob is obsessed with forensics.  He watches a certain TV show every day and he learns everything he can about all aspects of this science.  He is given a police scanner for a present and he starts showing up at crime scenes in his small Vermont town to watch the police work and offer suggestions.  And then one of Jacob's therapists, a young woman named Jess, is killed.  After some investigation, the police arrest Jacob, who was supposed to have met with Jess that day, and he is accused of her murder.  Chaos ensues and the rest of the story is spent with the investigation, the trial, and how all of this affects this family and Jacob in particular.  And I think I'll stop there describing the story.  If you've read any Picoult books, you'll know that she includes 'hot button' topics and moral and legal questions that may or may not have answers.

I said I was mostly pleased and that's true.  I did wonder how much of the Asperger's info was correct and how families that include a child with Asperger's would feel about this tale.  In looking at this author's website, I read an interview about this book.  She does have a cousin who is autistic, but does not have Asperger's.  She said she wanted her character to be verbal and speak directly to the reader and I can understand that.  I was amazed at the amount of time Emma was required to spend just having a 'peaceful' life with her boys.  And it really wasn't peaceful. It was exhausting just reading about it and I suspect that part is so very true, if not even more intensive.  Several legal issues were mentioned as well as the vaccination question.  I won't comment on any of those, other than to say that I wonder sometimes if we'll ever have all the answers as to why.  Probably not.

The last thing I thought of was to remember a family that we knew slightly about 15-20 years ago.  They had three children, two boys, and a girl.  I recall hearing that their second son had something called Asperger's, which, at that time, I had never heard of.  I had a few minor dealings with him and so when all the behaviors and challenges were mentioned in the book, it took me back to my interactions with that child.  And it explained so much.  I wish I had known then what I know now.  I know that my friends loved that son fiercely.  As they should.  However, life was difficult in a lot of ways and not just with the child with Asperger's - for his brother and sister too.  A lot of food for thought here.  And a lot of thinking about 'what would I have done if...'.

I'll now cross another off my Jodi Picoult list and probably wait a while before I try the next.  These books kind of wear me out.    

12 comments:

  1. I generally enjoy her books when I read them but afterward feel kind of manipulated, if you know what I mean. I haven't read this one.

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  2. I've enjoyed the Picoult books I have read, but like you, have to space her books out or else they all seem the same to me. I haven't read this one. She's one of those authors who I tend to read only when a book grabs my interest. I doubt I will ever read all of her books.

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    1. Totally understand and agree, Wendy.

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  3. I've only read one Picoult book and I had really mixed feelings about it. While I really enjoyed the writing and was caught up in the book itself I ended up feeling manipulative and there were several issues that felt inaccurate. And I definitely agree with feeling exhausted by the end! This does sound interesting but I'm not sure it's for me.

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    1. I liked the idea that the boy's interest happened to be forensics. That allowed a mystery type situation.

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  4. I haven't tried one of her books yet. Also, I haven't attempted to listen to an audiobook as long as this one (although I have a few in my queue). I'm impressed that you did!

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  5. I love Picoult. I agree that she has a formula she follows, but I like that formula! Her books always help me to look at timely/controversial issues from a variety of perspectives. Whether or not I agree with those perspectives, I end up looking at things a little differently than before.

    Glad you enjoyed this one, even if you had a few reservations.

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    1. Susan, she does make you think. I like that.

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  6. I've read several Picoult books, but like you wait quite a while between. I've heard that she gets lots of things right, Asperger's-wise, in this one but I haven't read it yet. From what you're describing it sounds fairly accurate, although I do always bristle at the lack of empathy stereotype, just because you may not understand the response doesn't mean there isn't one. And no I'm not directing this to you Kay, just to the general thought out there. Gage accidently hit me in the eye this morning and I was hurt, I know that he was upset because I know him, but someone else probably wouldn't have known it. That's just my two cents :) The only person who could get Asperger's exactly right is an Asperger's parent, but what parent has time?

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    1. And, of course, I was thinking of you, Stacy, as I wrote this review. I will say that because I didn't want to share too much of the story, the whole empathy/non-feeling thing was presented better as the tale progressed. And I agree. What parent of a child with Asperger's could have time to write a book - at least for quite a while. Thanks for weighing in on this. I do appreciate it.

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Thanks for stopping by! I am so happy to hear your thoughts and will respond as soon as I can. Happy Reading!