Monday, January 18, 2016

Rubbernecker ~ Belinda Bauer

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Bauer, Belinda. 2015. Rubbernecker. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.
$24.00 USD.  USBN 978-0802123961

It’s been quite a while since I read a novel in one sitting, and except for bathroom breaks and snacks, I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning devouring this unusual tale.  Winner of the 2014 Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year Award, Rubbernecker is an intriguing tale of a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome who unwittingly discovers something amiss with the cadaver he’s dissecting for an anatomy class.

Patrick has been obsessed with death since his father was killed in a hit and run accident, not understanding where the person goes, or what happens after death.  Hoping to satisfy his morbid curiosity, he takes an anatomy class at a local medical school and uncovers a murder mystery in the process.

The novel is narrated by four characters: Patrick, his alcoholic mother, a female student in the anatomy class, and most unusually, the consciousness of a man in a coma who witnesses a murder when he briefly awakens.  How all these narratives proceed and converge creates the page-turning experience of Rubbernecker, which has plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader engaged.  Patrick isn’t the most likeable character, but his struggles to live his life on his own terms with his disorder reflect some truly tender and at times, humorous, moments.  The surprise ending seems, at first, rather implausible, but upon further reflection (and this book does stay with you long after you finish) this story ends just right.

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