Book No 13 (2014) : The Universe vs Alex Woods

alex woodsI suggested that my book buddies read this for our March meeting – so, if you are in my book group, look away now! It was recommended by a friend who raved about it and I have to say I agree with her view that it was one of the best things we had read in ages.

Alex Woods is a young lad who, following a freak encounter with nature, develops a form of epilepsy. This, together with his social awkwardness, leaves him isolated and without many friends of his own age. Circumstances throw him in the path (well, actually it’s the garden shed) of an elderly neighbour, Mr Peterson. The two form an unlikely friendship, despite their age difference. When Mr Peterson starts to develop some disturbing health problems, he and Alex make a controversial decision which alleviates the older man’s worries about living with a degenerative condition.

The joy of this book for me was Alex’s character. I do not want to label him, but he does display many of the characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome. He is extremely literal, has to work hard at banal pleasantries and is disconcertingly honest. He is also compassionate, observant, intelligent and has an enquiring mind which allows him to seek out and remember facts about a wide range of topics. These vary from astronomy and neurology to Kurt Vonnegut and Alex’s diverse knowledge is the source of a great deal of the warmth and humour of the book.

One criticism I did have though, is that the novel starts with the ending of the story. I wished this had been different; although the conclusion starts to become clear, I think I would have preferred the revelation to have been at the close of the narrative.

But, to be honest, I’m being picky. I defy anyone not to enjoy this heart-warming read. Whether you like Kurt Vonnegut or not!