600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster

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6957731

Paperback, 278 pages

Published: October 23, 2009 by Riverbend Publishing (1st Published February 10, 2009)

Literary Awards:  Montana Honor Book (2009), High Plains Book Awards (2010)

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Thirty-nine-year old Edward Stanton has obsessive compulsive disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. His OCD is treated with medication and therapy, and the Asperger’s is just part of who he is: a bright, funny, methodical man who likes concrete facts and predictable routines. Edward has many abilities, but his rigidity and difficulty communicating with others have kept him from holding down a job. He is supported by his father, a wealthy developer and county commissioner.

Edward is often baffled by other people’s behavior, and he vents his frustration by writing letters of complaint. After his complaints to a popular Country-Western singer escalated to the point where he faced legal action, an event later known as “The Garth Brooks Incident,” his father decided Edward needed to move out. He now lives in a house his parents purchased and structures his life around careful routines.

Edward is sliding into middle age; like T.S. Eliot’s J. Edgar Prufrock, he measures out his life in coffee spoons, focusing on quotidian household tasks, errands, visits to his therapist, and his favorite television program, Dragnet. However, changes are coming. Through his tentative forays into internet dating, his budding friendship with a neighbor — a single mom recovering from an abusive relationship — and her 9-year-old son, and a crisis that strikes his family, Edward finds his life changed in ways he’d never expected.

This is not a fast-paced edge-of-your seat kind of story. We’re guided through 600 hours of Edward’s life, an existence that is defined, in many ways, by repetitive routines. However, it is a wonderful character study with several interesting twists. As an Aspergian with OCD, Edward dislikes ambiguity. He has spent his life avoiding shades of gray; as he often tells you, he prefers facts. However he is facing incredibly ambiguous, emotionally laden questions, the kinds of things that often overwhelm “neurotypicals.” For example, how do you forgive and fully love a parent who has been unkind and shut you out of his life? What should you do when what you’re supposed to do conflicts with what you believe is right? What are the “rules” and boundaries of friendship? And, for God’s sake, when you’re on a date, how do you figure out what a woman wants?

All of this leads to a turning point in Edward’s life — a coming of age. And yes, I believe “coming of age” can happen at any stage of life. This is a sweet, funny and occasionally heartbreaking debut novel that will appeal to fiction lovers who enjoy character-driven stories. I look forward to seeing what Craig Lancaster creates in the future.

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