How did I get it?:
I bought it!
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.
I heard about this book through the blogosphere. Having taught a few children with autism (and having an austitic child in my new class from September) I do have an interest in stories involving characters with autism. Shtum is a simple but touching story on family life. It’s dark, but a touching and incredibly poignant story.
Shtum follows Ben who is the father of Jonah. Jonah is a severely autistic 10-year-old boy. Jonah requires a lot of care. He’s not toilet trained and barely speaks. Ben and his wife Emma are trying to decide what secondary school would be best for Jonah. It’s a big decision for any parent, but for parent’s of autistic children, it’s complicated. They want the best for their son, understandably. Ben’s life becomes even more complex, when Emma suggests that they separate so Jonah has more of a chance to get into the secondary school of their choice following a tribunal. So Ben moves in with his father. We learn that Ben has never felt loved by his dad, Georg. Shtum really explores the father/son relationship in a raw yet touching way.
Shtum is a moving read. The three characters, Georg, Jonah and Ben grow so much throughout the novel. I absolutely loved the relationship between grandfather and grandson. They clearly adored each other. Ben definitely grew on me as a character. I wasn’t overly fussed with him in the beginning. I think this is because of his bad decisions thus far in his life, but as a reader, we learn that this is down to his lack of self-esteem and belief in himself. I would have liked to read more about Ben’s relationship with his ex-wife Emma, as that was never really explored.
I do think that this is a realistic look at autism. It’s clear that the author has understanding of autism. This book might sound like it’s really depressing, but there are some lighter moments and some humour injected into it which lightens the story a little.
Would I recommend it?:
Yes!- 3.5 stars