Debut author Jem Lester draws on his experience parenting an autistic child in this novel of a father willing to break his own heart to improve his son's life.

Ben Jewell would do anything for his 10-year-old son, Jonah, even agree to fake a separation from his wife, Emma, and move in with his grouchy father, Georg, a Jewish Hungarian immigrant. Emma, a barrister, thinks the ruse could create an impression of instability at home and give them a better chance of proving autistic, non-verbal Jonah belongs at Highgrove Manor, a top-flight government-funded boarding school for autistic youth. However, after the move, Emma suddenly has endless excuses not to see Ben and Jonah. Taciturn Georg turns into a chatterbox with Jonah, spilling forth the family history he's always summarized for Ben as "gassed by the Nazis" and no more. Unmoored, Ben obsesses about Emma, drinks too much, and lets the family catering business slide downhill. As the tribunal approaches, though, Ben must pull himself together to ensure a better future for his son.

While many authors tend to focus on high-functioning autistic characters, Lester shows the other side of parenting a child with special needs, including all the frustration, dirty diapers and sleepless nights. For all his failings, Ben still earns the reader's respect and sympathy for his unwavering commitment to Jonah and his ability to accept his son for who he is. Blunt and big-hearted, Shtum contemplates the challenge of understanding those closest to us and the joy of connection. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

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