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Book Bites: 5 November

Published in the Sunday Times

Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight
Naoki Higashida, Sceptre, R315

Naoki Higashida allows a glimpse into the life of autism. He was declared a “non-verbal” autistic, but can communicate through an alphabet graph, and what he says for himself and those like him will astound you. Between poetry, memories and musings, Higashida shows that “non-verbal” does not mean he cannot communicate. He shares his frustrations and offers alternatives to pre-conceived notions of autism. His simple request is to allow people with special needs to be accepted along with everyone else, and to avoid autism dictating every aspect of their lives. Higashida decries pity, and believes in humanity, love and hard work. He is wise beyond his years, and profoundly admirable. – Samantha Gibb (@samantha_gibb)

A Thousand Paper Birds
Tor Udall, Bloomsbury Circus, R318

Green thumbs will delight in this wondrous novel set in the Kew Gardens. Meet Jonah the musician and widower, Milly the inquisitive child, Harry the lonely gardener, and Chloe the artist who finds comfort in origami. These characters have only two things in common: an attachment to the world-famous gardens, and Audrey, Jonah’s dead wife. Mystery abounds in this lyrical tale, treading lightly into the supernatural. But this story is not all sunshine and orchids; thorns poke and puncture with the raw realities of grief, loneliness, and human imperfection. It’s The Secret Garden for grown-ups. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Little Fires Everywhere
Celeste Ng, Little Brown, R275

A fascinating slice of life in small-town America during the Clinton years. Artist Mia Warren moves herself and her teenage daughter Pearl to the conservative community of Shaker Heights in Cleveland. Here everything is carefully ordered, just as Mrs Richardson prefers. But soon Mia and Pearl disrupt the “perfect lives” of the Richardson family. Ng builds up the tension wonderfully, and her storytelling is refreshing as she doesn’t feel the need to wrap everything up neatly. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

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