[Book Review] Shtum by Jem Lester

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By Jem Lester

Based on the author’s personal experiences, Shtum follows the story of Jewish father, Ben Jewell, is struggling to cope with the care of his ten-year-old son Jonah. Jonah is on the spectrum and non-verbal. Stress of his care and navigating the British social services system, which will decide Jonah’s placement for future education causes a breakdown in his marriage, Ben and Jonah move in with Ben’s father, Georg. Georg is a survivor of the Shoah and rather colorful character. While the relationship between father and son is at times contentious the two need to put their differences aside in order to advocate for Jonah’s future.

Lester’s debut novel is truly a must-read. It’s darkly funny. At times, emotional. I am not a parent but this gave me a new appreciation for the challenges parents of children on the spectrum face on a daily basis.

The first-person narrative is very well-written. Lester demonstrates a wide range of emotions as the protagonist works through a very difficult situation. I found myself getting incredibly angry with Ben’s wife and her handling of this situation. Having never been in her situation, I don’t have a right to judge but her choices disturbed me. I also enjoyed Ben’s father, Georg. He adds an interesting perspective to the story.

In short, I laughed, I cried. This story is incredibly moving! Don’t miss this one.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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