Jem Lester

Jem Lester

Real-life experiences inspired this humorous, heartbreaking debut novel.

Jem Lester was a journalist for nine years and saw the Berlin Wall fall in 1989 – and though there, he denies personal responsibility. Perhaps it is Lester’s experiences and talent as a journalist that had him turning to real life for inspiration for his debut novel, Shtum.

Ben Jewell has hit breaking point. His 10 year old son, Jonah, has never spoken. So when Ben and Jonah are forced to move in with Ben's elderly father, three generations of men – one who can't talk, two who won't – are thrown together. As Ben battles single fatherhood, a string of well-meaning social workers and his own demons, he learns some difficult home truths. Jonah, blissful in his ignorance, becomes the prism through which all the complicated strands of personal identity, family history and misunderstanding are finally untangled.

Based loosely on Lester’s own experiences with his severely autistic child, this book is a funny and heartbreaking story about families, forgiveness and finding a light in the darkest days.

Read Lester’s interview with the Guardian on being the father of an autistic boy.