Days of Wonder by Keith Stuart

Days of Wonder by Keith Stuart

 

34460802Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 7th June 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 480

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | PHardcoverk | Paperback (out on 07.02.2019)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

A story about family, love and finding magic in everyday life, Days of Wonder is the most moving novel you’ll read all year.

Tom, single father to Hannah, is the manager of a tiny local theatre. On the same day each year, he and its colourful cast of part-time actors have staged a fantastical production just for his little girl, a moment of magic to make her childhood unforgettable.

But there is another reason behind these annual shows: the very first production followed Hannah’s diagnosis with a heart condition that will end her life early. And now, with Hannah a funny, tough girl of fifteen, that time is coming.

Hannah’s heart is literally broken – and she can’t bear the idea of her dad’s breaking too. So she resolves to find a partner for Tom, someone else to love, to fill the space beside him.

While all the time Tom plans a final day of magic that might just save them both.

Days of Wonder is the stunning follow-up to Keith Stuart’s much-loved debut A Boy Made of Blocks – and a book to fall in love with.

Rating: five-stars

Tom is a single father who’s a manager of a provincial theatre and looks after his teenage daughter Hannah, who has a life – limiting heart condition. Hannah’s mum has left – for a long time it’s not explained why, however I was starting to guess what could have happened. Tom is determined to make Hannah’s life as unforgettable and as special as possible, so with the help of his theatre’s friends he stages a once in a lifetime exceptional play for his daughter’s each and every birthday. Mostly they are based on fairytales, because Hannah loves them. Very soon the theatre and people working/helping to run it become a big part of the girl’s life. But Hannah is growing up – is theatre really all she wants? And Hannah’s dad – she’s as determined as he was, to make the time they have left together special, to make sure that when she’s gone he will be looked after, just as he looked after her.

I’ve read and absolutely loved Keith Stuart’s debut novel, “A Boy Made of Block”, so it is not a wonder that discovering a review copy of his second book on my doorstep made me very, very happy. Yes, I was a little afraid to read this book, of course, because I was asking myself after such mind – blowing debut would the author be able to make this dreaded second novel as wonderful as the first one? Oh my word, guys, Keith Stuart delivered, totally and with ease – “Days of Wonder” was perfect. Not too wishy – washy, not too sad, not too sugary, not too depressing, not too sentimental – just perfect. He took us on a wonderful and emotional rollercoaster – like journey that will make you smile and burst into tears in just one sentence and live the story through the characters. Keith Stuart can immediately enchant you with his writing style, he draws the reader immediately into the story, from the very first page you can feel as a part of the book’s world.

The story is told from Tom and Hannah’s points of view in alternative chapters. and boy, what distinctive, vivid voices they had! I immediately warmed to them and connected to them. The love between them was so real, raw and honest, so perfectly captured and put into words. I loved their banter, how they got each other, how they understood each other without words, how they challenged each other into getting dressed in second – hand especially chosen clothes and go to the restaurants. They laughed together and cried together and they respected each other. Their relationship was not a bed of roses, oh no, Hannah did also caused troubles but it only made them much more real and believable.
However, not only the main characters, but all of the background ones, are perfectly written and believable but I can’t not focus on Hannah and Tom. I absolutely adored them and their relationship, that was not too forced, seemed so natural and genuine and they all had everyday problems and issues to contend with. Hannah was brilliant, cool as a cucumber. She was edgy and sharp and incredibly clever but not too overdone for her age – probably because of her condition, of not seeing the future, she was bold and brave and took life by the horns. She also tried to couple her father up with a woman, just in case, so that he won’t be alone. She was this kind of character that you love so much that you hope till the end that somehow she’s going to survive, even if you know that it’s impossible.
I was very invested in the characters’ lives. They all had their own story to tell and I love the fact that the author has found a place for those stories in his book. There was this brilliantly, overwhelming community feel to it, they supported not only Hannah and Tom but also each other, even though all of them had their own problems and private turmoil. They all rose to the challenge, they showed what they can achieve as a group, when there is a problem to solve or when somebody needs help.

It was a beautiful, poignant and sharp story about not giving up, about never losing hope, about beautiful, unconditional love, about family. It is a real roller – coaster ride of feelings and emotions, and the author effortlessly transports you into the characters’ world, I really felt a part of it, and I experienced and lived through everything together with the characters. I wanted them to succeed, I applauded them and I cried with them. They all were a great bunch of characters and I am going to remember them for a long time yet.

“Days of Wonder” was first and foremost a story about love, but also about letting go, about spreading your wings, about trust. About friendship. Written in such light, chatty and accessible way, with a great feeling of authenticity, full of feelings and emotions. The author so very easily brought not only characters to life but also the setting and especially the Willow Tree Theatre. It was a truly magical place. And yes, the words on the cover stating that “Days of Wonder” is “The most magical and moving story of the year” are absolutely true – it was magical, and it was moving, and moreover, it was beautiful and enchanting. It touched upon some really heavy issues, like Hannah’s heart condition or Callum’s depression but it never feels too heavy or difficult to read. No. It was poignant, yes, but is also was very uplifting. There really isn’t anything that I didn’t like about this book. I savoured every single word and didn’t want to put it down. It was a real delight to read and I can’t recommend it highly enough!

 

 

A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

A Boy Made of Blocks

by Keith Stuart

 

30326408

Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 1st September 2016

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 23.03. 2017)

 

Synopsis:

Discover a unique, funny and moving debut that will make you laugh, cry and smile.

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?

Inspired by the author’s experiences with his own son, A Boy Made of Blocks is an astonishingly authentic story of love, family and autism.

 

Rating: 5/5

Lately there seems to be few fiction novels dealing with autism, and the books about this disability are gaining ground. However, as each of the stories deals with different spectrum of autism, they all feel so different to each other and they show that it affects people in many different ways. I didn’t hesitate long when I was invited to read “A Boy Made of Blocks” – the subject matter is close to my professional heart – I am a teacher and during my studies I used to have contact with children with many different disabilities, also the autistic ones, and I can say one thing – they are special angels. This story was a unique, exquisite, funny and emotional debut. I was immediately drawn to it and I felt like this till the end.

To be honest, after reading “Shtum” earlier this year, Sam didn’t seem to be AS difficult as Jonah and his actions didn’t surprise so much, in comparison to Jonah he was a very uncomplicated boy, but nevertheless, he was on the spectrum and living with him, raising him was not a walk in the park for his parents, friends and family, and the author isn’t shy from showing how it really is, without beating around the bush. What I so admire in the novels about autism is how honest the authors are when describing all the feelings and emotions and showing the not so perfect life – real life. The issues in Jody and Alex’s marriage seemed so realistic, the life described seemed so realistic and you just could connect and relate with the characters. It is a story about building a new relationship between father and son and I really liked that Alex found it in himself, that he eventually overcame his barriers, that he started to understand and appreciate his son and wife and we were taken with him on a very emotional journey. We were allowed to see how they all learn each other, how they all make mistakes but also how they learn from those mistakes. What was really moving was that they all were trying, no matter what. Sure, they all had moments of doubt but they never gave up.

I truly admired Jody and Alex for coping the way they did. I think it is somehow normal that there comes a time when one of the people, living with such demanding child, just can’t any more. I am not justifying Alex, who – shortly – shifted all of the responsibilities and duties about Sam on Jody’s shoulders and was panicking when he was supposed to take Sam to the park and also fled into his work – I am only saying that I understand it. It could also be the other way round, of course. And it’s not a wonder that finally, eventually, the couple started to pass each other, the everyday life felt like a battle and that they didn’t have time for each other anymore – hence the trial separation. I also admired how the author described Jody – as a strong woman who sacrificed herself and her career for her son but also a woman who had her moments of weaknesses, who couldn’t anymore. It is great that – even though the book is told mostly from Alex’s point of view – we also get a chance to find Jody’s point of view and to see how she feels. I also think that there was so much more to Alex and his character, which we learn throughout the story, and we see that he has so many issues to deal with – he just didn’t know how. There were things that he was running from and this story was also truly sad and heart – breaking. Moreover, the way the author captured Sam is brilliant – I have totally fell for him and his struggles. He was a lovely boy who struggled at school, who hated noise, who ate only particular food, was afraid of big dogs and reacted with violence when he felt at risk. But you can also see that he also, on his own way, tried, and the moments when he looked at his parents with appreciation, when he allowed them to touch or hug him, made my eyes swell with tears. Seeing the world through his eyes really show how scary and unfair can it be for children with autism, and the author has truly wonderfully pictured this world – it was as if he was sitting in Sam’s head and had a clear vision of things how Sam sees them, and I really admire such empathy.

What made this book so special for me was the fact that it dealt not only with autism, but also with Alex’s private life, making the story even more interesting, hooking and colourful. The only thing that bothered me a little, although it didn’t spoil the reading completely for me, was that there were many moments that it felt like a tribute to Minecraft and its creators. Those were also the moments that the story went too slow for me, and I’d rather prefer if it focused more on searching for a school for Sam, showing how he adapted to the new school than on describing every single figure and moment of Minecraft – sorry, maybe I’m just not into computer games. However, I really do appreciate that this time the computer game was associated with good and positive things, working for the characters and not against them.

“A Boy Made of Blocks” was sad but also happy, pessimistic and optimistic at the same time, heart – breaking and uplifting. To every low there came a high. It was full of moving, but also down – to – earth scenes and greatly developed characters, each of them with their own story. It may seem that the story of Alex’s sister or mum is not significant to the whole book, but I had a feeling that they fully belong there, as they were also a part of his – and Sam’s – world. I also absolutely liked the writing style – it’s easy to follow and makes the reading so effortless. The characters seem so honest in the way they communicate and behave and you have a feeling that the author really knows what he’s talking about – and well, he really knows, as he based the story on facts. And the reality of this story hits you so hard, as everything here is described just the way it really is, with problems, with parents feeling left alone, but also every small positive thing making them feel over the moon. Altogether, it was a beautiful, moving story about re – evaluating your life and priorities, about re – connecting with your loved ones, about finding a way. It makes you really think, and I love such books, and you can be sure that it’s going to stay with you for a long way after you read the final page. Highly recommended!