“I love you, Jonah, but sometimes I wish you had never been born.”
For most parents this would be an unthinkable phrase to utter. But Ben is desperate. He doesn’t mean it, of course, but the thought is there, uttered only when his 10 year old son is asleep. Even if Jonah heard he wouldn’t say anything.
Jonah doesn’t say anything. Jonah is non-verbal. He has autism. This is not your Rain Main depiction of autism where Jonah is a gifted child in at least one area. He has the mental age of a toddler and his parents have reached the end of the road.
He is about to make the transition to secondary school and Ben and Emma are convinced that he would be better off in a residential specialist school. The local authority doesn’t agree and this is where the novel starts.
Two parents battling to get the best for their son, and battling to communicate with each other. This is a brutally honest look at the highs and lows of parenting a child with autism. The author, Jem Lester, should know what it is like as he is father to a child just like Jonah.
But it is also a story about an adult son trying to repair his relationship with his aging father. Georg is a Holocaust survivor and has kept his past hidden from Ben. It is his conversations with Jonah that allow him to open up and Ben has to come to terms with the fact that his father won’t open up to him. It would seem that Jonah, who has the least to say, will be the one that teaches the adults in his life to live, love, and forgive.
By Willow Coby