Friday, September 14, 2012

Book Recommendation: Marcelo in the Real World


Sometimes a book is really good medicine for getting over a passing obsession. Take this week, for example. I'd gotten a bit caught up in re-watching a favorite old tv show (which may have involved Scoobies and pointy stakes), and every time my mind wandered, it kept rehearsing some of the scenes... and making up some new ones. Not exactly what I needed in my head when I had lots of editing to work on.

Fortunately I still had some books from the library I hadn't gotten around to reading yet, so I picked up one that I had checked out on a whim. It turned out to be a pretty perfect choice for distracting me from the tv characters.

The book was Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork.

Marcelo hears an internal music that nobody else can hear. It's been part of him all his life. It's like an emotional compass, and it's something he draws on to find peace. He spends time every day sitting in quiet, listening to the music, an activity he calls “remembering.” It's a bit like prayer, or like memorizing passages from the religious texts he enjoys studying.

Marcelo has a condition similar to Asperger's syndrome. He works diligently on his communication skills, but he is uncomfortable in “the real world.” All of his life he has gone to a school that allows him to learn at his own pace and in his own way. Now he's seventeen and about to enter his final year of school.

But now his father wants to change everything. He wants Marcelo to be part of the real world, to go to a “normal” high school and be friends with “normal” kids. Still, he gives Marcelo a choice: he can work all summer at his old school and then join a normal school in the fall, or he can spend the summer working at his father's law firm and then decide for himself where to attend school.

Marcelo isn't happy about working at the firm, but it's better than giving up his school. What he doesn't expect is to learn things in his new environment that force him to make ethical choices he's never considered before—choices between acceptance and friendship, between loyalty and restitution, between doing what's right and getting what he wants.

The book really surprised me. I went into it expecting it to be a story about a boy's personal journey from isolation to integration, but it was so much more than that. It addressed deep questions that all people face, and in poignant ways that weren't too heavy-handed.

Bottom Line: Through Marcelo's unique perspective we're able to think about our own lives in ways we may not have before. To me that experience made the book very worth reading.

2 comments:

  1. Maybe I should point out that the Master in Dr. Who heard inner music too (although it was just a drum beat...)

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    1. Shhh, I only just started watching Dr. Who! :)

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