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The Boy who Fell to Earth by Kathy Lette

The Boy who Fell to Earth is a gag-a-minute look into a life less ordinary

With a reputation as the Queen of the Quip and “the wittiest woman living in London”, Aussie-born writer Kathy Lette is known for her biting one-liners and stinging social commentary. With her new novel The Boy who Fell to Earth, Kathy turns her acerbic attention to some very serious issues.

Merlin is Julia’s bright, beautiful son, who also happens to be autistic. After his father, the emotionally stunted toff Jeremy, leaves, following Merlin’s diagnosis, Julia makes her son – and her role as a single mother – her top priority.

Caring for Merlin is a full-time job and before long Julia finds herself neglecting her own life to give her son a decent chance at his. The pages depicting Merlin’s autistic episodes are both humorous and harrowing.

As he grows up, Merlin transforms from a mute child into a charmingly original teen, with a range of interests and hobbies, including an encyclopaedic recollection of cricket scores.

However, he lacks basic social skills and an ability to filter his thoughts – with at-times hilarious results. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t fit in with his peers and finds himself an outcast, with no friends and an unfortunate tendency to get robbed and be bullied.

Although the book is a work of fiction, Kathy’s own son, Julius, has Asperger’s syndrome, so it is with an empathetic regard for parents who have a similarly “different” child that she writes. With that knowledge in mind and by allowing her characters room to grow, Kathy avoids falling into the “single-mother” and “special children” stereotype trap.

The Boy who Fell to Earth is a gag-a-minute look into a life less ordinary, with characters that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it.

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