Two things drew me to Keith Stuart’s novel, A Boy Made of Blocks: the first was that it was inspired by his own experiences with one of his sons, who was diagnosed with autism, and I hoped it might help me see the world through the eyes of someone with autism and those closest to them, and perhaps come to a better understanding of it. Secondly, what with the father and son in the book bonding over Minecraft, I figured A Boy Made of Blocks might finally shed some light on the (mysterious to me) appeal of console games for people like Sam, his dad, Alex, and my own husband.
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?
When the book opens, Alex is in a bad place: he can’t seem to do anything right, or hold anything much together. His family has reached crisis point and his wife, Jody, decides to show him some tough love in a last attempt to get him to sort himself out and start pulling his weight in the family. I could understand Jody’s frustration and how she felt that Alex was behaving just like another child of the family, rather than a real partner to her, but I had a certain amount of sympathy for Alex too. I’m not a parent, and I’ve definitely not been blessed with much patience, so I know that I would struggle to cope in Alex and Jody’s shoes, where they constantly feel as if they’re treading on eggshells and any paths to communication with Sam run through a minefield. Of course, that doesn’t mean that one parent can abdicate responsibility and leave it all up to the other either and Alex did frustrate me at times, as a character who is prone to wallowing in his own miserable situation while others get on with things around him. And yet, something about him had me rooting for him to find a way back to Sam, and Jody. Read more