Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Everyone should have an imaginary friend like Budo
BUDO is a good friend to eight-year-old Max. When the woman who works with Max in the learning centre is about to do something terrible, Budo is the only one who can save him.
But even though he narrates this eccentric novel, Budo is not real. He is imaginary. And Max is the only person who can see him.
If you are looking for a somewhat suspenseful, quick read in the vein of Room or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, then this quirky and almost Stephen King-like tale is for you.
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is the third novel from Matthew Dicks, a Connecticut-based elementary school teacher, and it's clear that he has a fondness for offbeat and unconventional characters.
Max may have Asperger's Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder characterized by problems with social interaction and sometimes intense interests in mechanical things. Dicks shows us through Budo what it's like for a young boy who lives in his head.
More than anything, Max likes to be alone and he loves his Lego and toy soldiers. His parents argue constantly about how to deal with him.
Budo loves to wander through gas stations and children's hospitals at night, because they are always open and because he does not sleep. There, he meets and observes all kinds of unusual characters, some imaginary and some not. Along the way he genuinely begins to care for many of them.
When Max's life becomes endangered by the delusional and scheming Mrs. Patterson, Budo must try to enlist the help of other imaginary friends in order to save him.
Memoirs is told from Budo's point of view. This is a little challenging because readers must find a way to wrap their heads around the concept that the story is being told by someone who does not really exist.
On the other hand, because Max isolates himself from people and lives mostly inside his own head, having Budo tell the tale seems appropriate and clever.
Budo is not exactly a kid and not exactly an adult but he is the product of a child's imagination. This is perhaps why the narrative is so markedly simple and easy to read.
Dicks uses short sentences throughout and mostly words consisting of one or two syllables.
Although Budo is child-like, he is wise beyond his years, probably from being able to observe others unnoticed and while they believe themselves to be alone.
Overall, it is a heartwarming type of story and not as horrific and menacing as it first appears or as suspenseful as it should be. It does not become a page-turner until near the end.
And though it may be difficult for some to get past the overly simplified prose and childlike narrative, Dicks provides an interesting tale and a fast read with unusual, likable characters.
He also provides an enlightening glimpse inside the mind of a child who, despite his limitations, bravely tries to find his way in the world.
Cheryl Girard is a Winnipeg writer.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 25, 2012 J7
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
(1 of 23 articles for this week)