It’s rare to find a book where the main protagonist has a disability. Usually if a book features a disable character at all they’re usually a colorful side character — memorable, perhaps, but not the main voice you hear throughout a book.
However this is completely not the case in a thriller crime novel written by one of the most well-known crime authors in Norway, Anne Holt. The book, 1222, gets its name from an old railway station and hotel in northern Norway called “Finse,” which sits at 1,222 meters above sea level, and the book follows the story of a paralyzed detective as she works to uncover a murder mystery occurring here.
What’s exciting about this 2011 novel, other than the fact that it was the author’s first book to have U.S. success, is that the main character is a paraplegic; a detective who was shot while on-duty several years back and is now back at work.
She is also a lesbian, married to a Muslim woman, and they have a daughter together. This is definitely a book full of equal opportunity characters and it’s refreshing to see. However, there is an issue with this book that many people have brought up, especially readers with disabilities — the character was written as a bitter, angry recluse who only cares about her immediate family, a personality she fell into after becoming paralyzed.
While this is usually not a stereotype anyone with a disability likes to see written into a novel, it actually makes sense with this story-line in my eyes. It starts out with the main character, Hanne Wihelmsen, on a train headed to see a specialist on spinal cord injuries, but that train derails while on its way, leaving all 259 passengers stranded at the Finse hotel.
And Hanne is an introvert. She struggles with how the world now views her, which I think many of us can relate to. Really cool. I particularly enjoyed this passage of the book, which explains her reclusive nature:
“The chair makes me different. It defines me as something completely different from all the rest, and it is not uncommon for people to assume that I am stupid. Or deaf. People talk over my head, quite literally, and if I simply lean back and close my eyes, it’s as if I don’t exist.”
Totally relatable, right? There are also secondary characters with disabilities included in the novel, including a dwarf medical doctor who helps tend to Hanne’s leg after a ski pole goes through it.
Now I’m not going to give the ending away of course (you’ll have to read the book yourself to find out what happens), but if you’re looking for a good book to read this summer that actually has a character you can relate to, 1222 is definitely one to consider.
Have you read 1222?