A life out of sync
Reviewed by Charandeep Singh

House Rules
By Jodi Picoult.
Hachette India. Pages 532. Rs 595.

A perfect potboiler for a typical Bollywood movie, this book Makes one draw an analogy with My Name is Khan, in which Shah Rukh Khan suffers from Asperger's syndrome. The main protagonist of the book is Jacob Hunt, an 18-year-old autistic boy, who suffers from Asperger's. But what Jodi Picoult has been able to tell the world about the character suffering from autism, Karan Johar hasn't been able to justify. The movie is now in pale in comparison to the riveting account that Picoult presents in her book.

Set in suburban America, the book gives a vivid account as to how the life of all the members of a family gets affected if you have an autistic child. Overall, Picoults research is impeccable as she deals with charged questions about Aspergerís and autism quite deftly. This intriguing book has been aptly titled House Rules, as the entire set up of the house is to be adjusted as per the needs of the autistic child. The author has dealt with this fact at length. Like all other autistic children, Jacob Hunt has only one special focus areaóforensics. Out of his interest, he sometimes lands up from nowhere at the crime scenes and in the process is convicted of murder of his special social skills tutor, Jess Ogilvy.

Bearing the brunt of the differently-abled child are his mother, Emma, and his younger brother, Theo. Though Jacob has an above-average intelligence, he is neither socially responsive nor socially communicative. Over indulgence on Jacob leaves Theo neglected and this in return has a debilitating effect on his psyche.

Emma being a single parent has to manage the dwindling finance of the house. Also, she is supposed to give fawning attention to the requirements of Jacob, and in the process, Theo starts indulging in small-time thefts. He has to bear with the whims and fancies associated with his brotherís disorder. There are certain interesting anecdotes in the book, like the food prepared in the house has to be of a particular colour on a particular day, e.g., on Monday it is all yellow, Tuesday all green and so on. Jacob cannot tolerate the sight of orange colour and he also dislikes women with loose hair. As a result, Emma always has her hair tied up. The book can be seen and enjoyed from two different angles: One, it is a murder mystery and second, it peeps into the life of people suffering from Aspergerís syndrome. The book has an easy narration with chapterisation being quite distinct. Each chapter, which is narrated by a specific character, shifts the focus and tries to bring in a new point of view. Of the various characters in the book, apart from Jacob, his attorney Oliver Bond is impressive with his courtroom antics and a bohemian approach to life. And he stands out for sure.

Picoult comes across as a novelist with a vice-like grip on his subject. Though at times the main plot seems to drift away, it is all woven beautifully across a single labyrinth in the end. Like in her previous works, this time as well Picoult has chosen a complex issue of Aspergerís as the theme of her book. The books brings out a very stark picture as to how the differently-abled people are looked up in our society and at times even in the court of law also.