Monday 23 November 2015

Shtum - Jem Lester

Ben Jewell has hit breaking point.

His ten-year-old son, Jonah, has never spoken, so when Ben and Jonah are forced to move in with Ben's elderly father, three generations of men - one who can't talk; two who won't - are thrown together.

As Ben battles single fatherhood, a string of well-meaning social workers and his own demons, he learns some difficult home truths.

Jonah, blissful in his innocence, becomes the prism through which all the complicated strands of personal identity, family history and misunderstanding are finally untangled.

What did I think?

This is such an extraordinary, heart-rending story and I have total respect for Jem Lester for writing about such a difficult subject.  Jonah is the most endearing character I have come across in some time, despite him not uttering a single word.  Jonah is autistic, and I think it was important to point out that there is a vast autistic spectrum; not all autism results in being a number genius, as portrayed in the film Rain Man.

The book explores the Jewell family as they strive to get the best care for Jonah, understandably putting tremendous strain on the family.  When Ben and Jonah move back in with Ben's father, Georg, the story revolves around the three Jewell men and I loved how they interacted with each other.  Georg seems so cool with Ben but so warm and loving with Jonah, so it’s no wonder that Ben feels a little jealous sometimes.

There are some funny moments in the book, mainly revolving around Jonah’s nappy, but as soon as I found myself laughing my heart would break that this lovely 11 year old boy was subjected to such indignity.  Jonah does have an amazing, yet intensely flawed, family supporting him and I was willing them on as they jumped through hoops to get him into the school that they felt was best for him.

Ben is forced to look deep inside himself as events unfold and I felt him emerge a stronger person at the end.  It’s an amazing part of the story when Ben looks into Georg’s family history and uncovers more than he bargained for; he not only learns more about his father, but he can finally alleviate some of the guilt that contributed to the breakdown of his marriage.

This story is sent special delivery from the heart of Jem Lester to the heart of every single reader.  You won’t fail to be moved as you fall in love with Jonah Jewell.  I devoured this book in no time at all and I am certain that it’s a book I will pick up again to read and enjoy.  This is an extraordinary book not to be missed and is sure to be a number one bestseller in 2016.

I received this e-book from the publisher, Orion, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Pre-order from Amazon - to be released in April 2016

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