Book Review – House Rules by Judi Picoult

Among many other things I am a trainer within the healthcare industry. While my interests are quite diverse I am always interested in ways the normal world can better understand those “other” conditions that pepper our society and are generally little understood.

House Rules is a book that does just that. You remember the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime, well house rules extends that idea of the rest of us learning about conditions through dramatic stories.

In this storey the realities of Aspergers Syndrome are narated form several different perspectives. From outsiders with no understanding of the character, Jacob, to the family members mother, father, sibling. As I listened to the audio version of this from audible.co.uk I gained a real advantage as the different characters were read by different narrators. This was not a dramatisation – the book was narrated but as large sections are read by the person whose perspective we are seeing this meant that I fully believe an audio version is the best way to go.

No picking up the book and not remembering who was this perspective from. As all characters may say “Jacob said” it would be important to the story to know who is relating that, something I could not have guaranteed for me if I was reading it.

While I have a reasonable understanding of Aspergers Syndrome both professionally and personally it was superb, for example, to hear Jacob’s brother describe their life pressures from the first person.

It all works around Jacob being charged with murder giving the book a real grounding in a gripping story that holds you to the end even though it follows in a predictable direction. Damn good read.

Some stuff from the book

Phrases that could lead to misunderstanding

Take a seat

Mark my words

hang around

just a second

get off my back

A story I really enjoyed – spoken by Jacob

A guy is flying in a hot air balloon and his lost; he lowers himself over a cornfield and calls out to a woman. “Can you tell me where I am and where I am headed?”

“Sure!” this woman says.

“You are at:-

  • 41° two minutes and 14 seconds NORTH
  • 144° four minutes 19 seconds east
  • You are at an altitude of 762 m above sea level
  • and right now you are hovering
  • but you were on a vector of 234° at 12 m/s!”

“Amazing, thanks. By the way do you have Asperger syndrome?”

“I do the woman replies but how do you know?”

He replied :-

  • “Because everything you said is true
  • it’s much more detailed than I need
  • and you told me in a way that is of no use to me at all”

The woman in frowns and asked “Are you a psychiatrist?”

“I am!” the man says, “but I could you tell?”

She replies:-

  • “you don’t know where you are
  • You don’t know where you’re headed
  • you got where you are by blowing hot air
  • you put labels on people after asking only a few questions
  • and you’re exactly the same position you were five minutes ago
  • but now some how it’s my fault!”