Digital Diva Mom

Could this be Picoult’s best yet
March 2, 2010, 1:58 pm
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House Rules is the latest book by Jodi Picoult. Critics are saying this is going to be here best book. I have just begun to read books and I have to admit I am hooked. While some are definitely better than others all keep me reading and wanting more. Now with this new one out I am headed out to the library or B&N to get a copy.

Let me give you some details on a review by USA Today.

House Rules has a serviceable plot involving a murder trial. Set in Vermont, the novel centers on Emma Hunt and her two teen sons. Older son Jacob, 18, is a high school senior with Asperger’s; the younger son is the unimpaired Theo, 15. (People with Asperger’s are often highly intelligent and very verbal but have difficulty navigating the world because they cannot interpret social cues correctly.)

Where’s Dad? Although he sends his monthly child support, he fled to Silicon Valley when Theo was 6 months old, overwhelmed by the chaos created by a special-needs child.

Everything revolves around Jacob. Picoult brings alive how “Aspies” crave order and fall apart when confronted with change. Jacob’s rigid schedule, his clothes, his food become minefields if threatened.

Emma has devoted herself to helping Jacob through endless therapies, supplements, special diets, doctors. She also ceaselessly advocates for accommodations in school for Jacob. He’s doing better, but he’ll never be self-sufficient. Hers is a heroic but exhausting and isolated life filled with fear about Jacob once she’s gone — as well as guilt over Theo. With good reason, he resents how his whole life is dominated by his older brother’s disability.

Emma’s deepest grief is Jacob’s loneliness. To help him, she hires a lovely grad student named Jess to tutor Jacob in how to read social cues. And to learn why he shouldn’t drone on about his favorite topic, a CSI-like TV show. Jacob has a Talmudic knowledge of blood splatters, forensics, crime scenes and decomposing bodies.

This fixation makes the police suspicious when Jess turns up dead. Jacob’s Asperger behaviors — twitching, little eye contact — only deepen their suspicions. The plot trots along with cops, lawyers, a trial and various twists.

The most impressive and moving chapters are the ones narrated by Jacob. Picoult captures his intelligence and his obsessiveness but also his emotional flatness and self-absorption.

Picoult doesn’t whitewash the fact that Jacob experiences the world differently. Not an easy task — and one of the reasons House Rules ranks among her best.