Meet thirtysomething 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
Beautiful, surprising, autistic. To him the world is a puzzle he can’t solve on his own.
But when Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other . . .
Can one fragmented family put themselves back together, one piece at a time?
Inspired by the author’s experiences with his own son, A Boy Made of Blocks is an astonishingly authentic story of love, family and autism.
A Boy Made of Blocks will be published on 1st September 2016.
When he’s screaming and fighting on the way to school; when he hides under the table at restaurants; when he refuses to hug or acknowledge relatives or friends or anyone but Jody, it’s autism. Autism did it. I started to see autism as a sort of malevolent spirit, a poltergeist, a demon.
Alex has had to move out of his home and into the spare room of his friend’s apartment; he needs to sort himself out so that he and his wife Jody can work on their marriage, without arguing. The cause of most of these arguments is centred on Alex’s inability to cope with his autistic son Sam, on top of a busy job and some unresolved childhood issues. A Boy Made of Blocks is his journey to discover how to better connect with his son and to see if he can save his marriage.
I could identify with Alex to a large extent, his anxieties around how to deal with the situations that he thinks may arise when being with Sam, and how he tries to get out of those situations by using excuses, and overworking himself. It was really nice to read the progression of his character; there were moments where I was so exasperated with Alex, that I just wanted him to pull himself together. Then as he starts to work toward improving the relationship with Sam and Jody, and realises that it is his perspective that is part of the problem and not Sam, I found myself really rooting for him.
I like that even though autism and its struggles are a prominent part of the story, it’s actually more about the relationships, forming bonds and the fight to pull a family back together. I could really relate to trying to improve your relationships and the work that goes into it. I felt that even though I have no experience with autistic children or the struggles and issues that that might bring; the writing made it really accessible and highlighted it in a way that made you understand the severity of the situation. Not in a way that made it all about pitying their position, but about realising their strength.
Maybe being a good parent is about improvisation and spontaneity; maybe it’s about genuinely being with your kid. Sometimes, though, it is also about being able to catch sick in your hands.
I didn’t know anything about Minecraft before reading this book, but because of the brilliant descriptions I felt like even I was involved, and was transported into the world that Sam and Alex created. It was a refreshing change to see a video game being seen in a positive light, as usually they are faced with negativity. It was nice to see the kind of impact it can have and how even though it is seen as a very solitary thing, that it also creates a community.
My only one downside to this book was that I wasn’t sure of some of the character dynamics, namely his sister Emma. Whilst I can understand Alex’s past trauma is instrumental to his character growth, we find out a lot about Emma’s back-story that I didn’t feel was entirely relevant. I liked that we get to see into Alex’s family and how their connection changes, but I felt that we could still see this connection developing without having to go into so much detail; it did slow the story a little bit, for me.
Despite that, by the end of the story I was so invested that I had been frustrated, sad, hopeful, had laughed out loud and ended up crying tears of happiness.
Thank you to Little Brown Book Group and Netgalley for the review copy of this book.