Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
A beautiful, funny and surprising story of family and love, perfect for fans of The Rosie Project, David Nicholls’ Us and Nick Hornby’s About a Boy.MEET THIRTY SOMETHING DAD, ALEX… He loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn't understand him. Something has to change. And he needs to start with himself.MEET EIGHT-YEAR-OLD SAM… To him the world is a puzzle he can't solve on his own.When Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other… When life starts to tear one family apart, can they put themselves back together, one piece at a time?A Boy Made of Blocks is a beautiful, funny and heart-warming story of family and love inspired by the author’s own experiences with his autistic son.
I will begin by saying I was emailed about this book once before I took part in this blog tour. I was really interested in reading but I was drowning in a sea of books and didn’t have the time so I had to say no. When I got emailed about participating in the blog tour for this book I couldn’t think of a single reason I would want to say no, even though I am still drowning in a sea of books. I wanted to read it because this was about a father of an autistic child who was inspired by his own experiences to write a book and am I glad he did. I was actually meant to post this Wednesday, but I accidentally committed to another book tour on that for Relativity, so it's a couple of days early.
I actually have a cousin who is autistic. I don’t see him often, he is quite shy and often doesn’t come to family gatherings but I distinctly remember, even as a child, he rarely made eye contact, was never happy if he couldn’t do things as he wanted, and always liked to follow a certain routine when it came to visiting places he knew. He was a handful but I know everyone really loved him and his unique way of doing things. I say this because Keith Stuart obviously knows how that is and understands how frustrating autistic children can be but how utterly wonderful they are as well and it comes across on every page of this book. This book just made me so happy to read.
It begins with the main character, Alex, struggling in life. He is going through a trial separation from his wife, Jody, and has moved from the family home to live with his friend Dan. He hates his job, feels utterly terrified by his autistic son, Sam, and doesn’t know how to get to a point where Jody will allow him back home.
He doesn’t know what he’s doing wrong but he knows he must be because he dreads going home and dealing with Sam’s tantrums and he dreads going to work and he is losing his temper and isn’t happy. The only problem is he doesn’t know what’s causing him to feel the way he does and Jody wants him to figure out what’s causing his unhappiness and fix it because otherwise, she cannot live with him.
I enjoyed reading this book because Alex and his mindset felt so genuine. I know how frustrating it can be with autism feeling like nothing is getting through and everything being a struggle and that comes across. This book works because Alex is such a sympathetic character, he isn’t flawless, in fact, he is very flawed. Instead, he is real. He felt like I could bump into him on the street and he wouldn’t seem out of place. Every character felt real and think that was because it was inspired by Stuart’s own experiences. The mistakes which Alex makes are ones any person could make because he hadn’t thought things through and acted rashly.
I have to say, I didn’t fully appreciate the character of Alex until he made the decision to try and connect with his son properly instead of continually feeling like Sam was a challenge to be attacked he instead chose to actually speak with him and listen to what he had to say. When Alex and Sam finally connected playing Minecraft together and got to know one another, that is when I fully appreciated what a great book this was. From that point onwards I was utterly in love with the characters and their foolish decisions and poor life choices that made them human.
In the end, this is inspired by a real person’s life, sure, it’s not a biography, but instead inspired by Keith Stuart’s own experience with his son and playing Minecraft. But that small element of truth shines through this book. Minecraft doesn’t magically cure Sam of his autism, or of the tantrum’s and fears he experiences. It does allow him a way to communicate with others and allow him to build a true connection with others he had previously been unable to experience and that’s what made this book wonderful. I stayed up way too late to reach the conclusion of the book and I was in tears by the end because I am a sentimental fool. I hope everyone reads this book and has a chance to read something a little different because it is completely worth it.
In 2012 one of KEITH STUART's two sons was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The ramifications felt huge. But then Keith and both boys started playing videogames together - especially Minecraft. Keith had always played games and, since 1995, has been writing about them, first for specialist magazines like Edge and PC Gamer then, for the last ten years, as games editor for the Guardian. The powerful creative sharing as a family and the blossoming of communication that followed informed his debut novel.
Has anyone else read this? What did you think? And isn’t it the best when you read something a little different every so often?