A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart
As per Goodreads:
In the tradition of Nick Hornby and David Nicholls comes a warm and tender novel in which a father and his autistic son connect over the game of Minecraft.
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 the author’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.
I loved this book so much. The straight forward writing makes for easy reading as Alex tells us his heartfelt story. Alex’s eight year old son, Sam, diagnosed with autism, has some difficult behaviors that create stress in the house so Alex spends most of his time at the office, hence his marriage is on the rocks. After moving out of his home and leaving his wife and son alone, he moves in with an old friend and the reality that he needs to make big changes sinks in. His marriage, his connection with his son,his unfulfilling job, and dealing with the loss of his brother all need some attention. Alex has to face what haunts him from the past to tackle the challenges ahead. While helping guide Sam he tells him “Life is an adventure, not a walk. That’s why it is difficult. ”
Author Keith Stuart takes us on the realistic journey of loss, the ups and downs of relationships, parenting, and the continual task of understanding and connecting with our children which may entail trying multiple tactics and revising expectations along the way. He says “life puts up so many barriers to people who are different. Any tool that helps us to appreciate those people- whoever they are, however they differ from us- is a precious thing. ” Stuart has a child on the autism scale and although this book is not about his own son it feels authentic. He also writes about video games for a living and his son’s experiences with Minecraft were an inspiration for this story.
I have enjoyed several other novels that depict characters with autism or have tendencies that indicate they are on the spectrum. I highly recommend these three below.
Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb
As per Goodreads:
Sent to a therapeutic community for autism at the age of eleven, Todd Aaron, now in his fifties, is the Old Fox of Payton LivingCenter. A joyous man who rereads the encyclopedia compulsively, he is unnerved by the sudden arrivals of a menacing new staffer and a disruptive, brain-injured roommate. His equilibrium is further worsened by Martine, a one-eyed new resident who has romantic intentions and convinces him to go off his meds to feel normal again. Undone by these pressures, Todd attempts an escape to return home to his younger brother and to a childhood that now inhabits only his dreams. Written astonishingly in the first-person voice of an autistic, adult man, Best Boy with its unforgettable portraits of Todd s beloved mother, whose sweet voice still sings from the grave, and a staffer named Raykene, who says that Todd reflects the beauty of His creation is a piercing, achingly funny, finally shattering novel no reader can ever forget.”
Eli Gottlieb did a nice job writing in the voice of an autistic man. Seeing the world through the eyes of Todd Aaron was enlightening; it provided insight into what possible thoughts could lead to subsequent behaviors in a man diagnosed with a mental disability. Although we may never know exactly what goes on in someone else’s head or body due to a medical condition or as a result of medications, Best Boy shows us what could be true.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
As per Goodreads:
An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.
Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.
Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.
The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.
Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
As per Goodreads:
Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years, but now she’s writing her first book in decades and to ensure timely completion her publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane.
When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noël Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth graders.
As she gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who his father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.
Full of heart and countless only-in-Hollywood moments, Be Frank With Me is a captivating and heartwarming story of an unusual mother and son, and the intrepid young woman who finds herself irresistibly pulled into their unforgettable world.