By Jem Lester
An Orion paperback, 2017
This is an incredibly difficult book to review without giving away enormous chunks of the plot, which I always hate doing.
Ben and Emma Jewell are the parents of Jonah, who is ten and profoundly autistic. Ben and Emma appear to be just about coping with the rigid complexities of dealing with Jonah's daily needs, their work committments and their marriage, but when the question arises as to what school Jonah will attend when he leaves his current school, absolutely everything falls apart, quite literally.
In one fell swoop, Ben finds himself wifeless, homeless and sole parent to Jonah, and in despair, he turns to his father, Georg, for help. It seems that Ben's descent into alcoholism is racing unchecked, and it is only when he discovers that somehow Jonah is unlocking the secrets of his family's past from his grandfather Georg that Ben begins to tentatively repair his relationship with his father......
For a book which deals with the Holocaust and the issues which surround the care of children with severely complex autism, this is a book with great touches of humour with scenes which made me laugh out loud and all too many scenes which made me cry. Jonah may not be able to talk, but he speaks to his family in many different ways and on many different levels, and they all talk back to him in their own ways too. But will they all ever learn to talk to each other?
This is a profoundly moving book about life, marriage, love, families and the struggles which the parents of every disabled child face in their determination to get their children the very best care they possibly can, and the battles which they face in doing so.
A troubling yet hopeful book, very well worth the read.