Sunday, 19 February 2017

Book Review: SHTUM by Jem Lester

SHTUM by Jem Lester.

 I caved to popular pressure on this one. I had heard so many positive comments about the book from The Book Club on Facebook, that veritable melting point of literary readership and authorship, that I finally just had to join the gang?

As ever they were correct. Jem Lester has penned a book that grips hold of you by the throat and does not unfurl those clawed fingers until the final word.

 It seems that for me at least, this is the year of the Autism book. This is perhaps one of the best I have ever had the pleasure to read. It is one of those glorious amalgams of searing emotional impact and laugh out loud humour that make it so easy to immerse oneself in. It touched me and tickled me in equal measure.

On paper, the premise of an alcoholic father Ben, left alone to deal with his severely Autistic Son, whilst living with the acid tongued father  who he feels deliberately left him at arm’s length does not seem very jolly at all. This plight, just to use a legal loophole to get Jonah proper Local Authority Care is just one more thing to add to Ben’s self imposed list of frustrations.

This could have been a very different book, but it is as heartwarming and wryly funny as it is (forgive the pun) Sobering. I laughed out loud several times and can officially announce that George  is my spirit animal, his Hungarian gruff wisdom balm for my continued grief for my own Grandfather whose journey appears to have been very similar to that of George and Maurice, two curmudgeonly old geezers who are Heroes through and through. It is through that refracted grief that I found myself viewing the sadness and loss that this family have to endure.

This is not Jonah’s story Persé, but that of the whole family unit. His suffering is of the moment, but theirs for so many reasons are lingering and destructive and self perpetuating and it is the joint fight on his behalf that ultimately brings clarity and resolution.

This is not a linear story and revelation and explanation continue throughout, which like life itself creates a rich tapestry of threads which when unpicked, reveal a raw, but totally satisfying read that lingers well beyond the final page.

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