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Shtum – Jem Lester

I received an advance review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Ben Jewell is a 30-something husband and father of one. His ten year old son Jonah is profoundly autistic and him and his wife Emma have reached breaking point with him.

As they embark on a war with the local authority to gain the care they feel is best for Jonah, Emma & Ben agree to fake a separation to put them in a better position. So, Ben & Jonah move in with Ben’s elderly Hungarian Jewish father.

This brings its own problems, as Ben and his father have never really seen eye-to-eye (especially since Ben has been running his father’s business – mainly into the ground), but his affection and influence on Jonah is indisputable.

As the tribunal approaches, Ben prepares for it whilst dealing with his own domestic and work issues, and worries that everything is slowly slipping out of his control.

I have spent the last few days totally immersed in Ben’s life with the constant worry of both Jonah and his father, his fake separation, his countless visits and assessments leading up to the tribunal. The hoops he has had to jump through,  the humiliations he has to endure, the inadequacies he feels, his misguided coping method and eventually the story that brought him to where he is now.

It has been an emotional roller-coaster that I can only be grateful to have no first-hand experience of…and this book is a perfect example of why I read – I want to know more about these experiences.

I laughed, I cried, I cried some more, and I got angry. Heartfelt, heart-warming, heart-breaking – a must-read, although not an easy read.

Shtum by Jem Lester will be published on 7th April.

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