The Feeling’s Unmutual is the autobiographical account of Will Hacroft, author of a children’s novel entitled Anne Droyd and Century Lodge. You’ve never heard of him, right? And given the novel’s small-press status, I’ll take a wild guess that you haven’t heard of it, either. So, what’s so special about this non-celebrity in his thirties that he gets to have his very own autobiography? Aspergers Syndrome, that’s what.
This condition manifests itself in a difficulty relating with others and in obsessive tendencies, amongst other things. Will has had a “ghosting” of the condition all his life, but was only recently diagnosed with it. That means he’s gone through most of his life not knowing what the heck was wrong with him or why he found certain tasks so hard while others around him sailed through.
I haven’t got the syndrome, but back in school I was the fat kid who was unpopular with the cool people, so I know all about what it feels like to be different. Will’s account is told with raw honesty, and I felt a real sense of empathy with him. Of special interest to me were Will’s digressions into cult television. He often speaks about why certain series, such as Doctor Who, The Incredible Hulk, or The Prisoner, made such an impression on him. In these shows, the hero is a misfit, not belonging in society, but he’s still the hero. Will’s philosophising made me question why I like particular films and TV shows. I realised that the theme which is cloeset to my heart is that of loner men, abused by life, by society, by their own wives even, yet they fight on and win the day, usually standing alone at the end. Now I know why I’m so fond of Mad Max II, The Shawshank Redemption and Gladiator.
There’s something in The Feeling’s Unmutual that’s not directly talked about by Will, but it’s there if you read between the lines: the idea that there’s a big plus side to being a misfit. From a very young age, you will see Will demonstrating an uncommon compassion, such as trying to help a school friend when everyone else (the typical, popular kids) just wants to cause pain. Later, in another context, Will has the courage to help a girl who is being sexually abused by her stepfather. Will simply tells what happened and doesn’t blow his own trumpet, but what I’m seeing is this: suffering breeds character. You don’t build courage by having an easy life. And what I’m getting at is that maybe it’s not so bad to be a misfit. Maybe, in fact, it’s best. Popularity and cruelty are easy elements to find together in a person.
I recommend this book, not only for sufferers of Aspergers Syndrome, but for everyone who has ever felt like a misfit. Will’s life story will touch your heart.