The Woman Who Dived into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman
Left alone in a sprawling mansion, Karen grows from a small child who does not understand the world into an autistic girl-woman who insists on enjoying life and the moments in it. From her first memories of being pulled into the world by her Aunt Isabelle after being left wild, right through her schooling and university where she studies Animal Husbandry so she can take over the family tuna business, the novel rests entirely on her perspective.
As a character, Karen does not engage with many social norms, failing to connect with her own name or, for example, to understand the cruelty of humans against animals. Yet this does not prevent us from sympathising with her, or from hoping desperately for her success and happiness.
There are many colourful characters that she meets along the way and, although they seem somewhat cartoonish through her eyes, we can easily see the shadows of people we know in them: the haughty university professor, the lonely sea captain and, of course, the loving aunt.
This is a book that will make you rethink society. How we treat people with disabilities and how, in many cases, we should follow their example rather the forcing them to follow the less-than-impressive leadership of so called ‘normal’ people. Touching and heartfelt – all of those words can be applied to this book, but really all you need to know is that you need to read it.