Saturday, November 3, 2012

Spending some time with an Imaginary Friend

Sometimes, I stumble upon a book that inspires to make me want to immediately go pick up any other books the author has written.  Such was the case when I recently received a copy of Matthew Dicks' newest book, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend. It's because of this book that I discovered his debut novel Something Missing, which I found to be even more delightful than Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend*.  I'm not sure what prompted me to pick up Memoirs, other than the memories it brought back of a (real) friend's college band called Imaginary Friend. Once I did pick it up, though, I was delighted by what I read. The title is not representational or symbolic of anything. This book is exactly what it says it is: the memoirs of Budo, the imaginary friend of Max, an 8-year-old boy who has been labeled a "late bloomer" but is probably somewhere along the autism spectrum. Max's parents and teachers try in their own ways to help Max adjust to school, but it is Budo who helps him through each day.

Budo has existed for five years, which is a life span considerably greater than any other imaginary friend he has ever met and which has given him the ability to learn things about the real world. He's not exactly a kid and not exactly an adult. Budo exists only as long as Max imagines him as real and exists only as Max has imagined him to exist.  That is, Budo cannot do the things that Max didn't imagine him having the ability to do.  This becomes critical when Max needs Budo's help to save him.  From what he needs saved, I'm not going to say because I think it's a spoiler (and, incidentally, if you don't like spoilers, don't read the Publisher's Weekly review). Suffice it say, there is charm and warmth and a good dose of quirkiness as Budo tries to help Max while trying to balance Max's best interests with his own precarious existence.

If you liked The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime or Room, this book captures some of the same use of a child-like voice to great effect.  If you like a little whimsy and light fantasy, the inner world of an imaginary friend is charming. And, if you wonder why most imaginary friends don't have ears,  your answer lies within.

*Something Missing will be discussed at Uncorked, the book discussion group held at Rumbleseat Wine on the first Monday of each month.

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