337 by Jonathan M Lee is such an usual book both in its physical form and the way you read it. You’ll notice I’m sure from looking at my photo that the way 337 is printed could be read as the author’s surname, Lee, if you turn the book upside down. If you turn the book over, you will find the same cover in blue. In fact you start reading the book at one end, then turn it over and continue reading from the other side. (I should mention that this particular feature is only in the hardback version available in the UK). This reflects the ideas within the book that there is more than one way of looking at things, that our perceptions can be changed by the smallest detail, and things aren’t always what they seem.
337 is the story of a family torn apart by an event years before. After a seemingly idyllic family picnic, Sam’s mother just walked out of their lives, never to be heard from again. The book explores the effect this had on the close members of the family: Sam’s father, his brother Tom and his ‘Gramma’ Joan. As the story gradually unfolds, we find that Sam has a deep hatred of his grandmother due to something which happened after his mother disappeared. Slowly, Jonathan Lee begins to give clues as to what may have happened when his mother left. There is an air of mystery which pervades the story making for a very intriguing read.
Despite his relationship with his grandmother, Sam finds himself the only family member able to be by her side as she spends her last days in a nursing home. He goes first out of a sense of duty but soon realises this may be his last chance to find out more about what happened all those years ago and in a strange sort of way, this time together heals their relationship. As anyone who has sat by a loved one’s bedside in their final hours will recognise, this time is depicted accurately and so poignantly by the author.
You may be wondering about the unusual title of the book? The number 337 is significant in a few ways although I’m still puzzling over it a bit myself! The book is an insightful and compelling portrait of a family who all see things in a different way and all have their own understandings of what happened. Very cleverly, by the end the author will have changed your perception of events too and have you wondering just exactly what has happened…
My thanks to Holly Milnes at Hideaway Falls for my review copy of the book and Kelly at Love Books Tours for having me as part of the tour. 337 is published today in paperback and ebook – you’ll find a buying link at the end of the post. Please note the double-ended upside-down opening for this book is available in books ordered in hard copy from UK booksellers only.
From the back of the book
337 follows the life of Samuel Darte whose mother vanished when he was in his teens. It was his brother, Tom who found her wedding ring on the kitchen table along with the note.
While their father pays the price of his mother’s disappearance, Sam learns that his long-estranged Gramma is living out her last days in a nursing home nearby.
Keen to learn about what really happened that day and realising the importance of how little time there is, he visits her to finally get the truth.
Soon it’ll be too late and the family secrets will be lost forever. Reduced to ashes. But in a story like this, nothing is as it seems.
About the Author
M Jonathan Lee is a nationally shortlisted author and mental health campaigner. His first novel The Radio was nationally shortlisted in the Novel Prize 2012. Since that time he has gone on to publish five further novels with ‘337’ being his sixth novel. Jonathan is a tireless campaigner for mental health awareness and writes his own column regularly for the Huffington Post. He has recently written for the Big Issue and spoken at length about his own personal struggle in the British national press on the BBC and Radio Talk Europe.
Endlessly fascinated by the human condition and what leads people to do the things they do to one another, Jonathan is obsessed with writing stories with twists where nothing is exactly how it first appears.