Book Review: Shtum by Jem Lester

Title: Shtum by Jem Lester

Publisher: Orion

Source: Pansing Malaysia

My Ratings: 4 Stars

Goodreads Synopsis:

Powerful, darkly funny and heart-breaking, Shtum is a story about fathers and sons, autism, and dysfunctional relationships.


Ben Jewell has hit breaking point. His ten-year-old son Jonah has severe autism and Ben and his wife, Emma, are struggling to cope.


When Ben and Emma fake a separation – a strategic decision to further Jonah’s case in an upcoming tribunal – Ben and Jonah move in with Georg, Ben’s elderly father. In a small house in North London, three generations of men – one who can’t talk; two who won’t – are thrown together.

My review:

While there are many books out there which discusses about autism, Shtum by Jem Lester is a rare jewel. This book speaks of many perspectives, even the quiet ones. Very often, we take our life for granted until a wrecking ball come right in with full swing and crash into our life. Only then, we begin to cherish the simple old times. For both Ben & Emma Jewel, Jonah is that wrecking ball.

Being autistic, Jonah isn’t easy to handle. Both of them are not happy, and they are striving hard to provide the best education/ institution for Jonah and that too isn’t easy. To solve the issue, Ben & Emma decided to feign a separation which will hopefully convince the state that Jonah will deserve the highly acclaimed institution. This book is also about a strained relationship between a father and son. The lacking of mutual understanding and display of affection runs deep in an individual. It molds a child differently. This book has discussed the imperative impacts of a successful/ failed parenting, and I simply loved it.

“It’s not words. It’s not words.

It’s actions.

But you don’t see with your eyes, like every other fool you see with your ears. You heard love from Emma, you heard devotion from Emma, you heard yourself tell yourself that you love Emma,

but what did you see?

What did you do?”

I adore the raw honesty which was portrayed in this book. They say mothers love knows no boundaries, while that may be true, Emma could not deal with Jonah’s reeking poop smell in the morning and she waits for Ben to clean the mess up. This simply doesn’t mean Emma is failing as a mother, she makes up for it by being the more organized and attentive parent. While Ben may be seemed more kind and caring towards Jonah, he is not well put together, he drains his day away with drinks and used Jonah as an excuse for his lack of discipline.

To me, this book is about second chances. It’s our second chance to redeem ourselves, to try harder because we didn’t try hard the first time. It’s another opportunity to love wholeheartedly again. I found so much love in this important book, all in different form. The love of Georg –Jonah’s grandfather to him (which was generously shown) and his son (which wasn’t) , the love of Ben to Jonah when he was trying hard to stay sober and do something of his life, and many more.

There’s also a nice end to this book, but like any story, the journey was difficult but worthwhile. This is a nice take on autism by author Jem Lester, a fresh perspective on everyone but the special Jonah. I have to stop here before I give away some plot! Give this book a shot and let me know what you think because I would love to hear your thoughts on this book!

Thank you Pansing Malaysia for sending me this copy in exchange of my honest review!


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