Ten-year-old Jonah lives in a world of his own. He likes colours and feathers and the feel of fresh air on his skin. He dislikes sudden loud noises and any change to his daily routine. Jonah has never spoken, yet somehow he communicates better than all of the adults in his life.
Ben Jewell has hit breaking point. When he and his wife 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.
As Ben battles single fatherhood, a string of well-meaning social workers and his own demons, he learns some difficult home truths. Jonah, blissful in his innocence, becomes the prism through which all the complicated strands of personal identity, family history and misunderstanding are finally untangled.
Funny and heart-breaking in equal measure, Shtum is a story about families, forgiveness and finding a light in the darkest days. Based on personal experience.
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Shtum by Jem Lester, published on 26 January, 2017 by Orion in paperback