This review is written with thanks to Little, Brown Book Group UK and Netgalley for my copy of A Boy Made Of Blocks.
In the first sentence of this novel, the narrator, Alex Rowe, tells us that he is estranged. He is leaving the home he shares with his wife, Jody, and his eight year old son, Sam, to begin a trial separation period. Sam has Autism, and Alex blames the problems in his marriage on the difficulty he has in understanding Sam's thoughts and behaviour, and dealing with his "meltdowns" which occur as a result of Sam's distress as he attempts to make sense of the world. But, one day, when he is looking after Sam for the weekend, Alex discovers that Sam has a passion for Minecraft, a computer game whereby players build their own world and then explore their surroundings to slay monsters and find treasure. If Alex can learn to play Minecraft too, will this help him become closer to his family?
A Boy Made From Blocks was inspired by the author's own experience of caring for his son, and is a novel which thrives upon its ability to develop realistic characters to whom the reader can relate. As someone who has experience of working with people with Autism, this was perhaps easier for me, as I have witnessed the effect that such a diagnosis can have upon a family. However, I immediately felt sympathy for Alex as he tried to understand his son; for Jody as she tried to help Sam in the best way she could; and for Sam, as he tried to make sense of the world in which he lived. As such, I wanted Alex and Jody to reunite, and was therefore encouraged to see the book through to its conclusion.
The story of A Boy Made From Blocks is not just about Sam though. As the novel progresses, we learn more about Alex's extended family and friends, and events from his past which may have contributed to the situation in which he finds himself at the beginning of the book. There are so many layers to the plot, and Stuart raises some important issues, especially grief. Grief is a subject which is relevant to the lives of so many readers, and it is handled with great care and sensitivity, whilst also allowing the reader to connect further with Alex's character.
It is very rare that a book can make me cry, and A Boy Made From Blocks is so touching and beautiful that it achieved this.
A Boy Made From Blocks will be released on 1st September, and is available from Amazon.