Thursday, October 11, 2012

Me Who Dove into the Heart of the World, by Sabina Berman

Karen has spent the early part of her life living the life of a wild, feral child, not conforming to the norms of hygiene, socialization, or typical human behavior.  When her aunt discovers Karen's existence on the family estate, she attempts to teach Karen how to be a part of the world, and involves Karen in the family tuna canary business.  It is apparent that Karen has high functioning autism, with the mind of a child in many ways, but the mind of a genius in many others.

This book was so odd, in so many ways.  First, I have to note that this book was originally written in Spanish, and that this is the English translation.  As far as translated books go, this is much better than many I have read, in terms of syntax and grammar, but I suspect a great deal of the beauty in the writing is lost in translation.

Secondly, the fact that the book is written in the narrative voice of Karen makes it seem a little odd, due to Karen's autism.  The way Karen views and interacts with the world is different, stilted, so it makes a great deal of sense that her discussion of it will seem stilted as well.  It can be a bit jarring to read, but in several instances, it really helped me understand Karen as a character, and gave me a glimpse at how some people with autism process the world around them.

There are pretty obvious similarities between Karen's character and that of the actual person Temple Grandin.  Karen's interest in and amazing insight of animal husbandry and humane slaughter practices is extremely similar to Grandin's.  There is a significant portion of the book that discusses the family tuna business, which was interesting to a point, but once it got to the animal protesters, it got just a bit heavy handed for me.

This was an unusual and unique novel.  While it was not an easy read, nor was it a fast read, it was an interesting and worthwhile novel.

I received a review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine program.

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