A beautiful, funny and surprising story of autism, family and love, perfect for fans of The Rosie Project, David Nicholls' Us and Nick Hornby's About a Boy.
Life is built on the little things....
Eight-year-old Sam has always been different - beautiful, surprising and autistic. For all he loves his family, dad Alex has always struggled to connect with Sam, and the strain has pushed Alex's marriage with Jody to the edge. So Alex moves in with his merrily irresponsible best friend on the world's most uncomfortable blow-up bed, wondering how to win back his wife and son.
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 the two to share. Can one fragmented family put themselves back together one piece at a time?
A Boy Made of Blocks is a tear-jerking, hilarious and, most of all, true-to-life novel about the power of difference and one very special little boy.
©2016 Keith Stuart (P)2016 Hachette Audio UK
A Boy Made of Blocks is a truly wonderful book! It takes you on the journey of a father-son relationship between Alex and his autistic son Sam.
Alex is struggling and Sam seems unreachable, but they eventually manage to find some common ground through the medium of Minecraft - yes, the pixelated computer game.
It sounds ludicrous but it's beautifully done. As someone with two children who are very much into this game week, I can completely relate. It's actually given me some understanding of it and conversation topics. Real life has imitated art once again.
For me, it isn't a book about autism. It's about families. It is a book about relationships. About how lost we all feel at times. How we're all winging it, pretending that we know how to be a grown up. About grief and how we deal with it. But, most of all, it's a book about being a parent and how challenging that can be sometimes.
It's eye-opening, touching, heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once. It's wonderful.
Writer and audiobook reviewer.
Eight year-old Sam is on the autistic spectrum and the cruel exhaustion of dealing with his daily meltdowns and difficulties has driven his parents Jody and Alex apart. Alex has de-camped to a blow-up mattress on the floor of his best friend Mat's flat, desperate to make it work between him and Jody and the little boy he loves, but clueless about how to do it. For anyone who has an autistic child, as does the author himself, the story of Alex's hard slog to get back could be some kind of life-saver, and it also teaches understanding to those who do not have first-hand experience of the life-sapping struggles and strains involved in raising a child to whom the environment can be a frightening puzzle.
The story is told by Alex and it's refreshing to have the father's point of view, but this doesn't mean Jody is side-lined. She's just as important. The breakdown of their marriage is painfully detailed and because it's so real, heart-breaking. The whole story is very much right now. This immediacy is helped by being firmly rooted in real Bristol with all its familiar typography and its recent physical and social developments. The core of the story involves Sam and Alex building their relationship brick by brick, block by block through the virtual world created through the computer game Minecraft. It is perfect for them as they interact socially and build a real relationship with each other as they build landscapes and castles together building their own world in this virtual one offered by Minecraft which Sam can understand and thrive in.
It's a wonderfully heartening story with genuinely tear-jerkingly moving scenes and moments as characters (not just Sam and Jody) find ways of re-connecting with love they thought they'd lost. Alex learns with joy the 'patterns and surprises' within Sam, and finds the blocks on which to cross the chasm which had divided them. The plot (and it's much more complex than this) does get a bit unrealistic, but never mind, it's such a genuinely moving ending, without ever down-playing the anguish and sheer hard work that has gone into it, that it leaves you uplifted and hopeful.
The 'right now-ness' of the story is also in the writing which is blokey: Alex and Dan call each other 'dude', they go 'bat-shit crazy' and Alex's sister Emma doesn't go travelling, but 'legs it to the other side of the planet'. But this works well: beneath all the blokey drinking and watching football and the language which goes with it are vulnerable human beings searching for answers, just as Sam strives to understand what is around him.
The narration is exactly right in capturing the seriousness beneath the dialogue. I didn't give it a full 5 because I thought it was a mistake to introduce the Bristolian accent for some of the characters. It's very difficult not to introduce the stereotypical through accent - and also why has Alex not got a Bristol accent, but his mother has? But that's a small quibble.
Download it - you won't be able to stop listening!
I loved listening to this. I have a son with autism just like Sam. The author's own experience with autism shines through in the details and observations. Brilliantly written from the fathers point of view. I think it has taught me a lot about what my own son's father may feel.
A little predictable plotwise but satisfying nontheless.
sad to have finished
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