A Boy Made of Blocks – Keith Stuart

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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.

*********

I was completely captivated by this debut novel from Keith Stuart.

I found A Boy Made of Blocks an effortless read but oh so good. Sad, happy, poignant, heartbreaking, heartwarming, funny, and more.  It is affecting but not depressing.

Alex and Jody are the parents of 9 year old Sam, who is on the autistic spectrum. They’ve been together ten years. They are stressed out. Alex spends most of his time at work and Jody doesn’t feel she has his support caring for Sam. Life is difficult and has been difficult for a while. Jody asks him to leave and sort himself out. Their family is factured. He moves in with his friend Dan.

The book is Alex’s story. You feel his despair at having to move out of the family home; and his anxiety when he is expected to take Sam out – anxiety and fear caused by Sam’s unpredictable and challenging behaviour. Sam struggles to make sense of the world. Alex is worried that something bad will happen and needs to be persuaded to take Sam out for a few hours.

However Sam discovers the computer game Minecraft and he is very good at it. He actually wants to show his dad what he has been doing in the Minecraft world. Alex doesn’t share his enthusiasm initially but becomes just as involved in it and father and son start to connect and share in a way they haven’t before and their love of the game takes them to places they never could have dreamed of.

There is also a very good back story which explains some of Alex’s anxieties and behaviours, and his relationship with his mother and sister.

In my opinion its an extremely well written novel. The author has an an autistic son so although A Boy Made of Blocks is fiction, he writes from experience.

I have even learned a little bit about Minecraft. If you have children or grandchildren you have probably heard of it, maybe even played it. My 9 year old grandson is a fan of Minecraft (and has been for a couple of years). He would spend time on Saturday mornings watching Stampy’s videos on You Tube and then come up with these amazing buildings and ideas. I couldn’t follow all the rules, too complicated for me, but I can understand how some children could feel safe in an environment that has rules and where they have some control.

A Boy Made of Blocks is ultimately about love, rebuilding fractured relationships and also hope.

I’ve had the opportunity to read some wonderful books this year which really made an impression on me and this is one of them.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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