Posts Tagged ‘asperger’s’

Book Review: 600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster

September 1, 2010 2 comments

Man standing on a horizon.Summary:
Edward likes facts and order, and his life revolves around them.  Every morning when he gets up he records the weather in his town of Billings, Montana, as well as the time of his awakening.  Every night at 10pm he watches a taped episode of Dragnet.  He buys the same groceries every week on Tuesday and does his best to avoid left-hand turns when driving.  Edward does not work.  He has a hard time interacting with people.  He can’t seem to understand them, and they have a hard time understanding him.  But 600 hours of his life are about to happen and change everything, daring him to open back up to the world and give it a chance.  Daring him to step outside of his comfort zone to make his life more than he ever dreamed it could be.

This is an extraordinary look into the mind of someone with Asperger’s syndrome.  Asperger’s syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder that causes great difficulties in social interaction, odd language use, and repetitive behavior commonly compared to obsessive-compulsive disorder.  In lieu of presenting us with an odd neighbor who we later discover has the illness, Lancaster brings us into the mind of the person with Asperger’s syndrome and shows us how the world looks to him.  Edward finds the world to be a rather confusing, disorderly place.  He can see when his behavior upsets people, but he doesn’t understand why.  His attempts to make sense of the world via rituals are heart-wrenching to read.  Yet the narrative also does an excellent job of demonstrating the good intentions of someone with Asperger’s who doesn’t realize his behavior is frightening or abnormal.

Edward’s life may be full of rituals, but it also is full of people–his parents, his therapist, his neighbors, his old high school workshop teacher.  The commonality between them all is that they see the good in Edward and are willing to work with him and be patient in order to keep him in their lives.  They see him for the good man struggling with an illness that he is.  Of course, Edward is not left with a free ride. The people around him expect him to do what he can to function better from taking his Fluoxetine every day to faithfully attending his appointments with Dr. Buckley and pushing his own boundaries.  It is a message of the hope that is possible when everyone involved works to overcome a mental illness.

There were two draw-backs to the book, however.  One was that the repeated summaries of Dragnet episodes every chapter were quite dull.  I think after a couple, the reader would still have gotten the point of ritual by saying “then I watched Dragnet” without actually summarizing the episodes.  It was a lot of narrative space taken up to make a point that was already made with the much shorter recording of the weather and waking times every morning.  This is minor and easily skimmed over though.  My other issue is actually that I think the book ended too soon.  I think the point at which it ended was chosen for some sense of supposed literary quality rather than telling the whole story.  I would like to have seen at least a bit more of Edward’s transformation.  It felt a bit short-lived.

Overall this book helped me understand people with Asperger’s syndrome better than I ever had before.  I highly recommend it to fans of contemporary fiction, fans of memoirs as it reads like one, and people seeking to understand Asperger’s syndrome better.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: free copy from the author via the LibraryThing Member Giveaway program

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