Monday, April 17, 2017

Shtum, by Jim Lester

Powerful, darkly funny and heart-breaking, Shtum is a story about fathers and sons, autism, and dysfunctional relationships.

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.


Silent; speechless; dumb.

It took me about a week to collect my thoughts on this book. It was an emotionally raw book about a family dealing with life with a 10 year old profoundly autistic child.  The sheer depth of this novel is almost overwhelming.  I laughed, I cried, and then cried some more.

Shtum is a beautifully written story.  It is very clear from the beginning that the author is writing from experience.  He painted a picture of what it is like living with a child who is autistic.  There wasn't really a comfortable spot to put this book down.  Good thing I mastered walking and reading when I commuted to work.  It was one that I read while walking from one room to another.

I fell in love with the characters from the very first page.  He has connected the reader to the characters through emotion.  I absolutely adored Jonah.  Though I cannot relate to parenting a child who is on the spectrum, I find people who have autism absolutely fascinating.  The way their mind works is amazing, and Lester did a phenomenal job at putting your imagination to good use.  Jonah's mannerisms were so real.   Georg was a close second.  I love that his character had so much depth.  His life unfolded bit by bit throughout the story, leaving a huge piece of the puzzle to the end of the story. Ben made my heart warm.  Such a loving parent who perseveres through the good, the bad and the ugly.  Emma just made me angry!  I can't say much about her character without unleashing some spoilers, so I will just leave it with the words "judgement passed".

What did I rate this book?

5 star reviews don't come easily.  I think the only thing keeping this book from being a big 5 star review is the ending.  The addition of Georg's family-line story was great, but definitely did not need to be included in the book.  It caused for a bit of confusion considering the lead up was just not there and it sort of came out of nowhere.  Otherwise, the book was stellar, and I recommend it to anyone who can relate to having difficulties with a loved one who has Autism, or anyone who really digs a book with exceptional character development.

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