TSWS: Shtum by Jem Lester

Article published on April 13, 2016.

This is the story of Ben, Emma and their severely autistic 10 year old son, Jonah. Both struggle to cope with Jonah at home, the book opens with a letter from the Local Authority saying that his needs would be best met in a local school.

The book tells of their experiences appealing this decision, and get Jonah into a residential school that is perfect but very expensive. Emma suggests they would have a better chance of winning if they separated, Ben reluctantly agrees. He and Jonah move to his father’s house.

The author, Jem Lester, has an autistic child so this novel comes from the heart. The reader learns of the problems of dealing with red tape and of dealing personally with Jonah. I did understand their frustrations and felt very sorry for them, but was irritated by them. Ben turned to drink years ago and if things are difficult he drinks himself into oblivion, but yet, he is generally wonderful with Jonah. Meanwhile Emma is working and seemingly giving up responsibility for Jonah while Ben struggles. But their love for Jonah shines through.

An easy read, I couldn’t put it down. It was very moving and thought provoking. About family secrets, relationships and communication – or lack of! The end reveals more about Ben’s father’s experiences with the Nazis which he never shared.

I can thoroughly recommend this book, a superb insight into living with an autistic child and how it can affect so many areas of life. An excellent novel.

Lynn Latham

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