A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart reviewed

A Boy Made of Blocks Book Cover A Boy Made of Blocks
Keith Stuart
Fiction
Macmillan
September 6, 2016
ebook
400
NetGalley

Alex loves his family, and yet he struggles to connect with his eight-year-old autistic son, Sam. The strain has pushed his marriage to the breaking point. So Alex moves in with his merrily irresponsible best friend on the world’s most uncomfortable blow-up bed. As Alex navigates single life, long-buried family secrets, and part-time fatherhood, his son begins playing Minecraft. Sam’s imagination blossoms and the game opens up a whole new world for father and son to share. Together, they discover that sometimes life must fall apart before you can build a better one. Inspired by Keith Stuart’s own relationship with his autistic son, A Boy Made of Blocks is a tear-jerking, funny, and, most of all, true-to-life novel about the power of difference and one very special little boy.

This book by Keith Stuart is the story of Alex, his son Sam, his wife Jody and also about other members of his family and friends. In part it is based on the author’s own experiences with his autistic son which I think lent validity to the book. The main focus is on Alex’s relationship with Sam – initially not really a relationship at all – more a train wreck. At the start I didn’t find Alex a very likeable character, blokey with no idea how to deal with the problems in his life. My views changed as I read on – he is actually quite like many of us – we get things wrong at times even with the best intentions. I was Increasingly drawn in to Alex’s life and his other problems. These gradually become more apparent as time goes by.

I guess a most noteworthy aspect of the story is that the online game Minecraft. The title of the book reflects this.  It is key to Alex’s changing relationship with Sam. Never having played it I found it fairly interesting simply as a “game” and very interesting in its effect on both of them. The book follows changes in Alex’s relationship with Sam and other people in his life.

I do find myself a little unsure about how I really felt about this book. On the one hand I was really drawn in to Alex’s story for much of the time. His vulnerability both in terms of himself and the rest of his family were both endearing.  I found him easy to identify with. On the other hand some aspect of the storyline seemed contrived and rather obvious.  In conclusion this is a highly readable and enjoyable story to me. Equally for me this book deserves over 3 stars and I’ll happily round it up to 4.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review