This Is How We Are Human

When the mother of an autistic young man hires a call girl to make him happy, three lives collide in unexpected and moving ways … changing everything. A devastatingly beautiful, rich and thought-provoking novel that will warm and break your heart…

‘One of the best writers of her generation’ John Marrs, author of The One

‘A brilliant premise, executed beautifully … such a moving, tender and unexpected read’ Catherine Isaac, author of Messy, Wonderful Us

‘I guarantee you will not read anything like it this year … you will fall in love with this book’ Miranda Dickinson, author of Our Story

‘Incredibly moving, gripping, and full of heart … The novel everyone will be talking about this year’ Gill Paul, author of The Secret Wife

Sebastian James Murphy is twenty years, six months and two days old. He loves swimming, fried eggs and Billy Ocean. Sebastian is autistic. And lonely. Veronica wants her son Sebastian to be happy, and she wants the world to accept him for who he is. She is also thinking about paying a professional to give him what he desperately wants.  Violetta is a high-class escort, who steps out into the night thinking only of money. Of her nursing degree. Paying for her dad’s care. Getting through the dark.  When these three lives collide, and intertwine in unexpected ways, everything changes. For everyone.  Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, This Is How We Are Human is a powerful, moving and thoughtful drama about a mother’s love for her son, about getting it wrong when we think we know what’s best, about the lengths we go to care for family and to survive. 

I am a huge fan of both Louise Beech and her writing ever since I fell in love with The Mountain in My Shoe when I first started blogging. I am happy to report that This Is How We Are Human is even better than I could have expected and I was absolutely blown away with this unforgettable and emotional read. I have featured it in my Summer Reads column 2021 as I want as many people as possible to pick up this book and be as caught up as I was in this skilful portrayal of the way society examines love, morality, suffering and everything in between…

white blanket on bed near window

When a novel hooks you in with a premise like this – dealing with such a morally complex and emotionally challenging scenario, you know that you are in for a satisfying and immersive read, and I was definitely up for that! It would be an amazing book club choice as there is literally so much to examine and think about in this cleverly constructed tale and speculate about what you might have done in these circumstances and to what extent people’s actions – or lack of them – might be crucial to all that unfolds. It is a testament to Louise’s writing that you are absolutely inside this story and feel like these are real people whose lives you have become entangled in – and just like real people’s lives, the truth is rarely as black and white, nor as tidy as people like to think. This tale was not only immersive but absolutely emotionally compelling too and the writing will keep you turning those pages as you imagine what you might have felt in any one of these circumstances, and consider whether your ideas about what os ‘right’ or not has to have a bit of a rethink, given everything you’ve now read about…

selective focus photography clear snow globe

I hate spoilers, so I don’t want to dwell too long on the plot here, Sebastian, Violetta & Veronica are so skillfully portrayed by Louise Beech that you are bound up in this complex situation with them and get carried along in their journey, feeling every twist and turn of the emerging situation. The skillful way that she weaves the many and diverse strands of characters and motivations in this challenging and thought provoking tale is superbly done and remains gripping and intriguing  throughout, Sebastian is an intriguing character and you never lose sight of the fact that despite all of these challenges, he’s just the same as you or I in so many ways. I know at times it can feel like the fictional world is saturated with stories that are set up to provoke moral debates, or get us to rethink our inner prejudices, but this time it’s superbly done without a hint of sensationalism or poor taste. The plot bears us along as this story unfolds for these three, never letting us forget that there but for the grace of god goes any last one of us – and it is this idea that had the biggest impact on me. Some of the scenes are so upsetting to read as a mother as you see some of the ways tht others treat him, Yes, this is a novel – but for many people out there these kind of choices and compromises are their reality and it feels absolutely truthful in its representation of some of these difficult choices…

I loved the way that this novel wove all of these different threads together – a convincing depiction of what this must be like for Veronica as his mother as Sebastian starts to grow up and become more interested in sex and girls, but still have so many challenges at the same time. These feelings of hers are perfectly juxtaposed with Sebastian’s situation and what he is thinking and feeling as the tale unfolds and allows you to move between them and get more insight into the complexity of this situation that they find themselves in as he journeys from a by to a man in so many ways. This is the perfect read for a long summer afternoon– I guarantee that you’ll be recommending it to so many people afterwards – as you’ll not be able to stop thinking about this heartrending and beautifully plotted story and you’ll want to see what they think as soon as they’ve finished…

woman in gray sweater carrying girl in blue denim jacket

This is How We are Human is definitely one of those novels that you are unable to forget, and was far more emotional and affecting a read than I’d anticipated – it really is a page turner; in the best possible way as you are so invested in these characters and their choices and become firmly entwined in the moral dilemmas it asks you to weigh up and consider as the situation unfolds

If you enjoy an immersive and moving piece of fiction that challenges your preconceptions and tests your prejudices in a compelling and emotional way then you will love this book as much as I did.  I absolutely can’t recommend it enough and feel like I haven’t been so emotionally caught up in a book for a very long time. Your emotions will be moved every which way by this novel and you should start reading by being prepared to question yourself and your perspective on some of its ideas several times throughout this fictional journey

If you feel intrigued and would like to order yourself a copy and find out for yourself what has had such a huge impact on me, then buy yourself a copy here

Check out these other fantastic bloggers on the tour. Thank you so much to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for the invite – You know that I love an Orenda read and I know that Karen will be delighted to see Louise featured in my newest column – out in July!

‘Such a complex and emotive book’ Claire King, author of The Night Rainbow

‘It had me gripped from the start and changed the way I see the world. Beautiful, bold and compelling  – another fearless story from Beech’ Katie Marsh, author of Unbreak Your Heart

‘A searching, rich and thought-provoking novel with an emotional core’ LoveReading 

‘This book is just what the world needs right now’ Fiona Mills, BBC

‘Oh, Sebastian, I’ll never forget him. Heart is always at the core of Louise’s books and this one is no exception’ Madeleine Black, author of Unbroken

‘What a brave and prejudice busting story this is … brava’ S. E. Lynes, author of Can You See Her

‘A convincing, bittersweet tale of misplaced kindness, a myriad types of vulnerability, and unexpected consequences … All the stars and more’ Carol Lovekin, author of Wild Spinning Girls

‘A tender, insightful read’ Michael J. Malone, author of A Song of Isolation

‘An exceptional book that will make you laugh, cry and feel better for having read it’ Audrey Davis, author of Lost in Translation

‘The most exquisite and moving story I have read in a very long time’ Book Review Café

‘I don’t know of another writer who portrays characters so true, flaws and all … mesmerising, the characters are beautiful but, more importantly, they’re REAL’ J. M. Hewitt, author of The Quiet Girls

Writer On The Shelf

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Reader’s Choice in 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe, was shortlisted for the Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her 2019 novel Call Me Star Girl won Best Magazine’s Book of the Year, and was followed by a ghost-story cum psychological thriller set in a theatre, I Am Dust. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

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