‘A brother chosen. A brother left behind. And a family where you’d least expect to find one.’
My Name is Leon is the debut novel from Kit de Waal.
Published by Viking Penguin on 2nd June 2016, I received my copy from writing.ie in return for an honest review.
‘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 take Jake away and give him to strangers. Because 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 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 somehow manage to find our way home.’
Leon is a young 8 year old boy who has never had a proper childhood. He has been in & out of foster care because of his home situation. His mother, Carol, is young, depressed & unable to care for him. His father has no more to do with them. They live in a ground floor flat next to a dual carriageway, with the noise & dangers of the traffic a constant in their lives. Leon’s life is about to change forever. He gets a baby brother Jake who is a different colour to him. Jake is white and he is ‘perfect’.
And this is where the story will steal your heart away. Leon becomes a different young boy searching constantly for his identity in a community that doesn’t care until…..
After the birth of Jake, Carol is no longer in a position to take care of the boys. Her life spirals downhill and eventually Jake & Leon get put into foster care with Maureen. Maureen is seasoned at fostering kids but even Maureen is taken aback with how the two boys become separated by the authorities. Jake is removed from Maureen’s care to a more permanent home. Leon is left behind. Leon, now 9 years old, struggles trying to comprehend where his little baby brother is gone. His mother only makes a limited number of supervised appearances and the only adults Leon has contact with are social services and Maureen. Leon is alone in the world but is determined to make things right. He has a plan.
And so begin the adventures of Leon into the world. He discovers some amazing people along the way, who love him as he is. He takes a few wrong twists and turns along his journey. He has to face up to some harsh realities but ultimately he finds his place in society.
Leon, is an amazing young boy. His story and that of his foster mother, Maureen, will open your eyes to another world, the world of the child left behind!!
A beautiful read, one that will grab your heart. Throughout the novel we are exposed to the mind of the child, in the actions and thoughts of Leon. Kit de Waal has perfectly captured this in every page.
The personal experiences of Kit de Waal are evident in My Name is Leon. Her own mother was involved with fostering and Kit herself became an advocate for children in social services. I think this is what makes this novel so special. It is written from the heart.
At the end of the novel, all I wanted was to take Leon home with me. He is such a gentle, lovable boy who is just looking for his brother and his Mummy.
Please buy this novel…now available at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0241207096
About the Author
Kit de Waal was born in Birmingham to an Irish mother, who was a foster carer and a Caribbean father. She worked for fifteen years in criminal and family law, was a magistrate for several years and sits on adoption panels. She used to advise Social Services on the care of foster children, and has written training manuals on adoption and foster care. Her writing has received numerous awards including the Bridport Flash Fiction Prize 2014 and 2015 and the SI Leeds Literary Reader’s Choice Prize 2014. My Name is Leon is her first novel. She has two children. (Courtesy of kitdewaal.com)