1. The Kitchen Daughter
An Asperger’s-afflicted woman finds the keys to life and her family history in the kitchen after her parents die in McHenry’s inspired if uneven debut. Ginny Selvaggio has lived a sheltered life: unable to maintain eye contact, make friends, or finish college due to her undiagnosed condition, the 26-year-old lives in her parents’ home, surfing the Internet and perfecting recipes. But after her parents die, Ginny and her sister, Amanda, disagree about what to do with the family home—Amanda wants to sell, Ginny doesn’t. As they bicker about what to do with the house and the problems caused by Ginny’s awkwardness, Ginny comforts herself by cooking and soon learns that the dishes she prepares can conjure spirits. The ghosts, including her grandmother, leave clues about possible family secrets, as do a box of photographs Ginny discovers tucked away
2. House Rules
Jacob Hunt is a teenage boy with Asperger’s syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, and like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special focus on one subject–in his case, forensic analysis. He’s always showing up at crime scenes and telling the cops what they need to do and he’s usually right. But then his town is rocked by a terrible murder and the police come to Jacob with questions. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger’s–not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, flat affect–can look a lot like guilt to law enforcement personnel. And the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?
3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
A murder mystery of sorts–one told by an autistic fifteen-year-old. Christopher is mathematically gifted and socially hopeless, raised in a working-class home by parents who can barely cope with their child’s quirks. He takes everything that he sees (or is told) at face value, and is unable to sort out the strange behaviour of his elders and peers. Late one night, Christopher comes across his neighbour’s poodle,impaled on a garden fork. When the owner finds him cradling her dead dog in his arms, she has him arrested. After spending a night in jail, Christopher resolves to discover just who has murdered the dog. He is encouraged by Siobhan, a social worker at his school, to write a book about his investigations, and the result–quirkily illustrated, with each chapter given its own prime number, is the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
4. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
Edwards’s novel hinges on the birth of fraternal twins, a healthy boy and a girl with Down syndrome, resulting in the father’s disavowal of his newborn daughter. A snowstorm immobilizes Lexington, Ky., in 1964, and when young Norah Henry goes into labour, her husband, orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Henry, must deliver their babies himself, aided only by a nurse. Seeing his daughter’s handicap, he instructs the nurse to take her to a home and later tells Norah, who was drugged during labour, that their son Paul’s twin died at birth. Instead of institutionalizing Phoebe, the nurse absconds with her to Pittsburgh. David’s deception becomes the defining moment of the family’s lives and Phoebe’s absence corrodes their core over the next 25 years. David’s undetected lie warps his marriage; he grapples with guilt; Norah mourns her lost child; and Paul not only deals with his parents’ icy relationship but with his own yearnings for his sister as well.
5. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle lives with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar’s lifelong friend and ally. But with the unexpected return of Claude, Edgar’s paternal uncle, turmoil consumes the Sawtelles’ once peaceful home. When Edgar’s father dies suddenly, Claude insinuates himself into the life of the farm–and into Edgar’s mother’s affections. Grief-stricken and bewildered, Edgar tries to prove Claude played a role in his father’s death, but his plan backfires–spectacularly. Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who follow him. But his need to face his father’s murderer and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs turn Edgar ever homeward.
6. Motherless Brooklyn
Lionel Essrog, a detective suffering from Tourette’s syndrome, spins the narrative as he tracks down the killer of his boss, Frank Minna. Minna enlisted Lionel and his friends when they were teenagers living at Saint Vincent’s Home for Boys, ostensibly to perform odd jobs (we’re talking veryodd) and over the years trained them to become a team of investigators. The Minna men face their most daunting case when they find their mentor in a Dumpster bleeding from stab wounds delivered by an assailant whose identity he refuses to reveal–even while he’s dying on the way to the hospital.
7. Handle with Care
Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe’s daughter, Willow, was born with brittle bone disease, a condition that requires Charlotte to act as full-time caregiver and has strained their emotional and financial limits. Willow’s teenaged half-sister, Amelia, suffers as well, overshadowed by Willow’s needs and lost in her own adolescent turmoil. When Charlotte decides to sue for wrongful birth in order to obtain a settlement to ensure Willow’s future, the already strained family begins to implode. Not only is the defendant Charlotte’s longtime friend, but the case requires Charlotte and Sean to claim that had they known of Willow’s condition, they would have terminated the pregnancy, a statement that strikes at the core of their faith and family.