Chapter 16

In this chapter we learn more about the death of Christopher's mother. This is the third chapter in a row that consists mostly or entirely of flashbacks or infodumping. I guess 15 was the anomalous one, because in 17 we get back to the main story.

Anyway, she dies two weeks later, and his dad still hasn't let him see her in the hospital. I'll skip the first two paragraphs -- they're boring and I have nothing to say about them. It's yet more dry, dull narration of something that should have deeply affected him. (Spoiler: I read the plot summary on Wikipedia before reading the book, so I know that his mother didn't actually die. I don't know if this justifies his apparent attitude here; it probably doesn't because this part of the book is written as though he doesn't know this yet.)

For comparison, here's an excerpt from some fiction I wrote when I was about fourteen:

The rain was nowhere near letting up and it was a cold night -- maybe nine above zero --, but I didn't care. I didn't feel the cold, didn't feel the rain soaking my clothes and hair. Didn't even feel the field of the electric fence a few feet away. I only felt my long-denied wish to be free, a wish that had risen up again and driven me out, away from the warm but oppressive school, out into the cold, wet darkness. Driven me, this time, not to die, but to live. To escape. To get my life back.

(Context: she's stuck in an evil bad-guy boarding school and has various physics-defying psychic powers.) See how differently it reads? I write with more emotion about people who don't even exist than Christopher writes about his own mother. I'm not saying what I wrote was any good, mind you (the story itself is actually pretty bad), but at least it doesn't sound like an emotionless little kid. Maybe I'm not typical or I've been socialized differently. Who knows. In any case, the point stands that it doesn't have to be like that.

So then we get to hear more about cars. The get-well card has nine stylized cars on the front because Christopher is obsessed with cars or something. We get a picture of it for some reason, which I won't put here.

I did it at school with Mrs. Peters, who does art, and it was a lino cut, which is when you draw a picture on a piece of lino and Mrs. Peters cuts round the picture with a Stanley knife and then you put ink on the lino and press it onto the paper, which is why all the cars looked the same, because I did one car and pressed it onto the paper 9 times.

And this is explained because Christopher thinks everyone is as stupid as he is, I guess. I imagine this book being read in a high-pitched kid voice.

And I colored all the cars in with red paint to make it a Super Super Good Day for Mother.

Sure, whatever. I thought this car silliness only determined whether his days were good or bad, but okay. It's rubbish no matter how you slice it. Supposedly Haddon used to work with autistic people, but it seems he only noticed how they behave and never figured out how they thought. People like him have the privilege of not needing to put a ton of effort into understanding others, so they think they can get away with this manner of sloppiness. Something like that.

Father said that she died of a heart attack and it wasn't expected.

I said, "What kind of heart attack?" because I was surprised.

Mother was only 38 years old and heart attacks usually happen to older people, and Mother was very active and rode a bicycle and ate food which was healthy and high in fiber and low in saturated fat like chicken and vegetables and muesli.

Okay. Christopher is being "smart" again, but I suppose this is fair enough.

Father said that he didn't know what kind of heart attack she had and now wasn't the time to be asking questions like that.

I said that it was probably an aneurysm.

Huh? Why? Doesn't everyone know heart attacks and aneurysms aren't the same thing? How dumb is he?

Christopher explains how heart attacks work for some reason, and it's actually accurate until he starts talking about how to prevent embolisms.

And you can stop this from happening by taking aspirin and eating fish. Which is why Eskimos don't get this sort of heart attack, because they eat fish and fish stops their blood from clotting but if they cut themselves badly they could bleed to death.

Close, but not quite. Fish isn't that powerful. Fish oil is an anticoagulant, but it doesn't cause hemophilia except in people who are already vulnerable. Same with aspirin.

Then he explains aneurysms, and...

But an aneurysm is when a blood vessel breaks and the blood doesn't get to the heart muscles because it is leaking. And some people get aneurysms just because there is a weak bit in their blood vessels, like Mrs. Hardisty, who lived at number 72 in our street, who had a weak bit in the blood vessels in her neck and died just because she turned her head round to reverse her car into a parking space.

No. An aneurysm is a swelling, not a rupture. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the heart. I didn't even have to look it up to know that. I thought that was common knowledge, but I don't have a good sense of what is and isn't common knowledge, so that doesn't mean much. What's with all the random bits of misinformation in this book? I can't tell if Haddon can't be bothered with accuracy or if he's deliberately portraying Christopher as stupid and ignorant.

Christopher thinks it could have been an embolism after all. Whatever. Given that his mother didn't die (I forget what really happened, but she wasn't sick or in hospital either), the father's dismissiveness is clearly foreshadowing, but I can understand why he'd say this wasn't the time for such questions. Yes, I've gotten all technical and analytic at inappropriate moments, but not like this. I doubt I'd have thought what he's thinking.

Father said, "I'm sorry, Christopher. I'm really sorry."

But it wasn't his fault.

I've had the same reaction to this use of "I'm sorry", but it reads like he's never encountered the expression before. Have you seen the results, Christopher?

Then Mrs. Shears came over and cooked supper for us. And she was wearing sandals and jeans and a T-shirt which had the words windsurf and corfu and a picture of a windsurfer on it.

And Father was sitting down and she stood next to him and held his head against her bosoms and said, "Come on, Ed. We're going to get you through this."

Are they going to have an affair now? I think there was an affair in here somewhere...

And then she made us spaghetti and tomato sauce.

And after dinner she played Scrabble with me and I beat her 247 points to 134.

That's nice.

< Chapter 15 | Chapter 17 >

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This page was created on 17/08/2017 (dmy).
This page was last modified on 29/11/2017 (dmy).