There is a rite of passage, an evolution that every young man must go through. It comes to each of us at different times and in many forms. You'd be wrong to think that we experience this change in the equivalent way as our female counterparts. For most of us, it happens when in our late 20's and for the best part it is something to rejoice! However, to avoid it can result in the breaking up of friendships, relationships and even families.
For many men, the transition of becoming a man and letting go of your boyhood, is a harrowing ordeal. To most of us, our Action Man and He-Man figures still exist, but they've taken on a wholly different form. They're the golf clubs, the power tools and Global set of knives. Toys are an important part of a boy's life and this transcends over to manhood with great difficulty and is not without it's prejudices. Being a boy and being made to feel like you're still a boy is very important to us. But of course, this too is not without it dangers.
Our Mothers are the most important women in our lives. As boys, they were our rocks, our access to fun and the ones that kept our boyhood desires in check. As a boy seeks a partner, in his youth he's more likely to enjoy the company of a woman that allows that boyness to flow, creating an easy transition from the mother's arms, into the girlfriends. Many girls I've met have fallen for the boyish charms over a guy's ability to look after himself. They, just as the boy's mothers before them, continue to treat them like a boy. They run around cleaning after him, let him go to the pub on Friday and Saturday, he can go out and play golf as often as he likes. So is it any wonder that to the boy mind, when this young man has spent his entire life basking in the comforts of childhood, allowed to continue his self fulfilling life, that as soon as responsibility shows up in the form of commitment, work or a bundle of cute loveable joy, that our boys life comes screeching to a halt? That he must now be a man? That the role of the child has been passed down?! What does our boy do? He leaves.
Many women fail to understand the consequences of their actions, to them they were loving their man, unaware that in actuality they were mothering them to the point that they fueled selfishness. Few men can take the change and even the ones that attempt to step up to the mark, do so not without their own personal difficulties.
In A Boy Made of Blocks, this subject is tackled at the most extreme level. Alex a thirty-something father and devoted husband can't connect with his autistic son Sam. The book begins with Alex leaving his wife and child and moving in with his polar opposite best friend that enjoys the single life and all of the fruits that comes with it. The story is based on author Keith Stuart's account of his life raising his own autistic son.
Written in the first person and similar in style to Danny Wallace, the reader is taken on a lovely tour of both Bristol and the mind of a man that is in conflict with his own boyhood. Alex's character is brooding and deep one minute and childishly shallow the other, he goes from having the weight of the world on his shoulders to not a care in the world, chapter after chapter. Nevertheless, never is Alex without a wanting and desire to love his family and understand his son. He is keen to prove himself a man and provider and that is spelled out by Stuart in such passion, that it makes it difficult to do anything but love Alex for his endeavours against his demons.
The story is clearly years in the making and I suspect that Stuart has spent more time formulating this work so that it be enjoyable fiction, rather than something a little too serious. The conclusion of using Minecraft so that Alex and Sam can reach one another is certainly testament to the power of maintaining part of one's boyhood. A Boy Made of Blocks is a wonderful read and I imagine that this will be one of many outstanding novels by Keith Stuart. it opens a very clever insight into the transition of Boyhood to Manhood and offers a clear explanation to the reader the importance of both.
A Boy made of Blocks is published Sphere and is available on e-book or can be pre-ordered in hardcover for the 1st September 2016.