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Death Stalks Kettle Street
John Bowen

"Life is an adventure, not a walk. That's why it's so difficult."

A Boy Made of Blocks - Stuart Keith This book reads very much like a memoir and I had to check back to convince myself that it was a novel, but the author writes from first hand experience with his own autistic son and it therefore has a very authentic feel. The other reason I connected with this novel was that Alex, the father of Sam, an autistic boy, finds a bond with his son through Minecraft, an on-line computer game that was played by the three boys who I child-minded for many years. Alex had avoided the issue of his troubled son by spending long hours at work, convincing himself that his responsibility to the family was to bring home the money. When the stresses between himself and his wife reach breaking point, she asks him to move out for a while and to get some psychological help. Suddenly he is sharing a small flat with his childhood mate and his world has fallen apart. The author does an excellent job of describing the issue of autism for those without first-hand experience - "He has trouble with language, he fears social situations, he hates noise, he obsesses over certain things, and gets physical when situations confuse or frighten him." He wears "special T-shirts with all the linings and stitchings masked so he doesn't feel it on his skin." Although I knew a bit about autism, I realise that there was still a lot I hadn't grasped. Despite the more serious issues, I loved the author's sense of humour - " 'Daddy', says a voice from downstairs. 'Some of the Coco Pops have got out.' " and I had to relate to - "Ikea, I now have a rickety single bed, rather than an air mattress. I also have a lamp (because you never come away from Ikea with just the thing you went in for) and a cheap rug that generates enough static electricity to power the lamp." Members of my book group were less enthusiastic than me about this book and had some valid reasons why, but my ratings depend on my own enjoyment and I thoroughly enjoyed this. Even just judging from the number of highlights I made as I read. 4.5 stars from me.