Monday, July 2, 2012

Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork

This book was on my TBR because it was mentioned in several blogs. I picked it up at the library, and then it sat on my night table for a month while I read Dorothy L. Sayers. I renewed it, because I knew I wanted to read it, but I only started reading it up a few days ago because Busman's Honeymoon wasn't at the library.

I can't believe I waited a whole month to read this amazing book.

Marcelo has a version of Asperger's syndrome. As he puts it, "From a medical perspective, the closest description of my condition is Asperger's syndrome. But I don't have many of the characteristics that other people with Asperger's syndrome have, so that term is not exactly accurate." This is the story of his summer working at his father's law firm. His father Arturo wants him out of the protected environment of his special school (do schools like that exist, by the way? Patersons sounds amazing!)  so he can engage with so-called normal people and experience the so-called real world. Arturo believes this challenge will help Marcelo grow. Grow he does, but it's the world that gets changed by Marcelo, not the other way around.

I think books narrated by people in the autism spectrum are popular because they allow the reader to experience an alien perspective; and they allow the writer to portray the world from a true outsider's point of view. As in science fiction, this provides the opportunity to comment on the world. We experience a typical lawyers' office, with all its petty rivalries and questionable ethics, with Marcelo's perception. Marcelo has a beautiful innocence--not simplistic or childish, but logical and genuinely questioning. Right and wrong through his eyes are inescapably clear, wriggle though you may try. His moral courage is heartrending and inspiring. I was literally on the edge of my seat while reading. What would you do if you were faced with his choice?

Stork explores morality, ethics, religion--all the big questions--but above all else, Marcelo in the Real World is a stunning meditation on love. I want all teenagers to read this--no: everyone should read this and measure their own relationships against Marcelo's growing understanding. He says at one point that he's not sure he's capable of love, but nothing could be further than the truth. We all should be so lucky as to be loved the way Marcelo loves.

Beautifully written, profoundly beautiful, one of those books that changes you. Marcelo in the Real World is a strawberry spinach salad made with spinach I grew myself and fresh local strawberries, served at a family barbeque amidst noisy conversation with an undercurrent of respect and caring.


  1. I really enjoyed this one! There was so much in the story, you could read it again and still get something new out of it.

  2. i own this book and i still haven't read it! i bought it based on that gorgeous cover, but the first two chapters befuddled me. now i'll definitely give it another shot :)

  3. The cover is so beautiful and enticing. I have not read this one, but the title does sound familiar. I enjoy learning more about the autistic spectrum- so I have added this one to my TBR list. Thanks for sharing!