By Jem Lester
Published by Orion (7 April 2016)
Ben Jewell has hit breaking point. His ten-year-old son Jonah has severe autism and Ben and his wife, Emma, are struggling to cope.
When Ben and Emma fake a separation - a strategic decision to further Jonah's case in an upcoming tribunal - Ben and Jonah move in with Georg, Ben's elderly father. In a small house in North London, 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.
Shtum made me laugh at times AND cry too.
Ben and Emma are struggling to cope with their severely autistic son. They want to send him to a specialist residential school, where they feel he'll get the help he needs, as well as a better quality of life than they can offer. But the local authority thinks otherwise, and wants Jonah to go a local day school with an autism unit. Emma persuades Ben to move out, explaining that a single dad will have more chance of getting the right help for Jonah than a married couple. So Ben reluctantly moves in with his elderly father Georg.
Shtum is a story of friendships, relationships, denial and fighting for what you believe in. Jem Lester gets right into the heart of Ben and Georg's relationship, their love for Jonah, and also Georg's secret family history. The story is all about communication - Jonah can't communicate and none of the adults want to, which is where the problems lie. The book is filled with strong believable characters who will make you laugh and cry. As the story progresses, the father and son learn to love each other as well as themselves.
Be prepared to think about this book long after you've read the final page.
I received an Advance Reader Copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review