My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Time taken to read - 3 days
Pages - 368
Publisher - Orion
Blurb from Goodreads
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.
Ben and Emma are at their wits end, their ten year old son Jonah has a severe form of autism and they are being penalized for being a united strong couple. So they fake a separation to help their quest to get Jonah into the school and care they desperately need for him. Ben reluctantly moves in with his father, Georg, in a small house with Jonah and try to cope with the complications of father son relationship.
This book isn't out until tomorrow however it is already receiving rave reviews and praise. Ben is not a likeable character, in fact I would have liked to have slapped him if truth be told. There is no doubt his daily struggles are many and the book opens your eyes to just how much a family goes through with a child with severe autism. However, Ben is so full of self pity and destructive behaviour it is irritating and you really feel for Jonah and those around them.
It took me over 200 pages to really get into the story and we get to see Ben go on a journey of self discovery and growth. I was not a huge fan of Emma either to be honest and struggled to understand her behaviour. However, the relationship with Jonah and his grandfather was the saving grace and really very touching. Georg is not the main character but he really does steal the story, well he did for me. Reading about his past and his stories to Jonah really pulled me in and left me wanting more, he is a grumpy old man you can't help but love and he is so tender with Jonah.
The is a very hard hitting story, Ben is very honest in some of his thoughts towards his son and some of that was hard to read. There is a lot of swearing, a little humour littered throughout the story and huge focus on relationships and family dynamics. I would certainly recommend this book but I do not think it is for everyone, I found some of it hard going. I would have gave it 3.5 but the ratings are full not half and for me it isn't 4 stars, so 3/5 for me. I think there is a lot that can be taken from this book and I think Lester has done very well with a hard subject. I think Ben's honesty will be loved by some readers and hated by others. Possibly another marmite book, I didn't love it but I did like it and would have loved to have read more on Georg and the background on Ben and Emma. My thanks to Tracy F and TBConFB for giving me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.