Meet Jimmy Flick. He’s not like other kids – he’s both too fast and too slow. He sees too much, and too little. Jimmy’s mother Paula is the only one who can manage him. She teaches him how to count sheep so that he can fall asleep. She holds him tight enough to stop his cells spinning. It is only Paula who can keep Jimmy out of his father’s way. But when Jimmy’s world falls apart, he has to navigate the unfathomable world on his own, and make things right.
Bookclubers can be a diversified and opinionated group. They tend to be passionate and determined in their views and ideas on literature … what they like and what they don’t. So it is rare for a novel to unify everyone in a group, but that is exactly what happened this month with Eye of the Sheep by Sofia Laguna, the 2015 Miles Franklin winner.
Without exception, Laguna’s narrative by Jimmy was enjoyed and found to be refreshing to read. Through his eyes we saw life in a simpler, more basic way. In finding that Laguna was much known for her children’s books, it made sense to us that she could successfully write from within a child’s mind.
Tackling the topic of autism added yet another dimension to this book. Most of us have had some experience with autistic children, both directly and indirectly, and everyone thought the condition was authentically portrayed with just the right amount of empathy and realism.
Our discussion was a lively one and we covered many topics drawn from Jimmy’s story. Along with the obvious, autism and its challenges, we found ourselves discussing Australian life in the 70s and 80s, domestic violence, depression, abuse, nature vs nurture and funding for disabilities. All important social issues that everyone is calling for conversations to be had in today’s environment.
Maybe what everyone needs to do is read books such as Eye of the Sheep. It got us talking … maybe it would work for society as a whole!