Alex loves his family, and yet he struggles to connect with his eight-year-old autistic son, Sam. The strain has pushed his marriage to the breaking point. So Alex moves in with his merrily irresponsible best friend on the world’s most uncomfortable blow-up bed.
As Alex navigates single life, long-buried family secrets, and part-time fatherhood, his son begins playing Minecraft. Sam’s imagination blossoms and the game opens up a whole new world for father and son to share. Together, they discover that sometimes life must fall apart before you can build a better one.
Inspired by the author’s own relationship with his autistic son, A Boy Made of Blocks is a tear-jerking, funny, and, most, of all true-to-life novel about the power of difference and one very special little boy.
What I Thought:
Being the type of mother who, at times feels like the worst parent in the world, it’s so easy to identify with Alex in A Boy Made of Blocks. Children seem to be able to make even the most competent adult feel like a total failure in the blink of an eye, so I’ve no idea how that must be amplified when the child and parent are navigating their way around the effects of autism.
Keith Stuart is really very clever in the book, in making Alex quite unlikeable in the beginning. He’s a seemingly shallow man who is unprepared for having to care for an autistic child, selfish in wanting more of his wife’s attention and actually a bit of a shit for walking out with zero appreciation for how his fears are magnified tenfold in his wife, Jody. This is what makes it so much more rewarding when Alex begins to slowly understand his son, Sam, and build a relationship with him. You can see that Alex had to leave to be able to see his own family from the outside – but that doesn’t make walking out any less of a shitty thing to do!
Alongside this initial act, and the serious tone of the book relating to Alex, the book is also littered with humour. Sam’s honest reactions to his world and the people in it are written so well – I can only assume from Keith Stuart’s own experience of having an autistic child – and are sometimes so much what we as adults would wish to say, but would never dare!
The experience of this family is heartbreaking and, eventually, hugely rewarding and I felt like I gained a real insight into a family that includes an autistic child. I felt that sometimes there is such stigma surrounding a diagnosis of autism, that it is refreshing to read a story that emphasises the many wonderful things and experiences these special children can have.
Note: I was sent a copy of the book for review but all opinions are, as ever, my own.