My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal
Publication date: 02 June 2016
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
Approximate reading time*: 3 hours, 30 mins
Published by: Penguin Books (UK)
Available at: Amazon.co.uk, Goodreads
(*Reading time is based on the time it took me to read it.)
A brother chosen. A brother left behind. And a family where you’d least expect to find one. Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers. Since Jake is white and Leon is not. As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile – like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum. Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a heart-breaking story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how – just when we least expect it – we manage to find our way home.
I fell in love with this book from the beginning.
The story unfolds through the eyes of Leon, who just wants to look after his baby brother and his mum, and genuinely is just doing the best he can. The story is one heartbreak after another.
The story has a few concurrent themes covering racism, social-care for children, the dynamic of relationships between adults and children, and how different people deal with the inevitable hardships of life. It has pace, and is full of subtle and well-timed observations.
It is rare for a book to make me cry, no matter how heart-wrenching the story. To date three books have succeeded: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, and now, My Name is Leon.
Thank you to NetGalley.com and Penguin Books for providing me with an advanced copy of this book.