I have a tendency to arrive for flights really early. I prefer it that way, because I hate to rush. In late August, after attending a conference in Los Angeles, I embarked on my journey to the airport several hours in advance, just in case the legendary traffic wielded its horrible reputation on a random Sunday morning. Thankfully, it didn’t, but that meant arriving at 8:30am for an 11:30am domestic flight.
No problem. Going through security ate up approximately thirty minutes, and a leisurely breakfast at Wolfgang Express another thirty. In my previous search for a restaurant, I passed Book Soup, so I retraced my steps like a woman on a mission. Having burned through the two books I brought to Los Angeles, I needed something to occupy me for the next leg of my adventure: a five hour flight from LAX to HNL. Yes, Hawaii. Ah-loooo-ha!
It took nearly an hour to find something I actually wanted to read. Perhaps I was in a picky mood, I don’t know, but it took me a long time. Eventually I chose Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer, so I whipped out my credit card, tucked the softback under my arm, and made the trek to my assigned gate, which changed as soon as I sat down and got comfortable. Don’t you love it when that happens?
I suppose I should focus more obviously on the book itself. Enough backstory and mood setting. Okay, so once I boarded the plane and buckled my seat belt, a bag of strawberry flavored Welsh’s gummy candies at the ready, I began to read.
Rubbernecker is a fantastic story, with an even better narrator. Patrick Fort has Asperger’s, and engages with the world from a distance. He is by far the best part of the book. I adored following along with his idiosyncratic observations, and his blossoming emotional connections with the people around him. As the novel begins, he is beginning his first term as an anatomy student in Wales, learning the many facets of pathology alongside a class of medical students. Everyone is broken up into several groups and assigned a cadaver. The assignment? Determine the reason of death.
The complexity of Rubbernecker’s narrative structure is another reason for my fascination. The reader has to be careful whenever the speaker shifts from first person to third person. We are not always with Patrick, and we are not always moving in chronological order. After about three chapters, a pattern sets in, and you will soon feel the waves of a captivating mystery rolling over you in a subtle, lovely way.
I should also mention that there are some gruesome points. Of course, the main character is conducting what is essentially an elaborate autopsy for most of the book, so be prepared for some unpleasant olfactory experiences.
Five hours later, we descended into Honolulu. I marked my spot nearly two hundred pages in, looked out the tiny window and stared in awe at the vast turquoise water below us. Needless to say, I didn’t do much reading over the next seven days. Tropical greenery is tough competition. Regardless, Rubbernecker was promptly completed on the long flight home (approximately 14 hours in transit). Highly, highly recommended for anyone who loves unusual stories of any genre.