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Six years ago Tom’s brother died. The next day he came back.
It’s Tom and Jack’s 18th birthday, but it isn’t a cause for celebration. For the past three years they’ve been in a care home for troubled children, a place where Dr Smith tries to silence the voice of Jack in Tom’s head. But Tom doesn’t want that. He’s already lost his brother once, he’s not going to lose him again.
And so, when they go in front of the review board, they will have to pretend Jack has gone so they won’t be sent to the Young Men’s Institution or they’ll have to escape. Because one way or another they’ve got to get out of this place. They’ve got to be free, they’ve got to remember everything that happened to them, to their mum, and to their dad.They have to find their dad, whom they haven’t seen since he left on a space mission to the moon when they were young.
We Used To Be Kings is the story of a young boy’s descent into madness following the loss of everything he knows. Set in the 1970s, it is reminiscent of unusually hot summers, pictures of Russians in space and war on our doorstep. It’s an audacious, at times hilarious story that is ultimately heartbreaking and unforgettable.
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Fresh and original, a spare and moving tale that’s never showy but often dazzling. - Observer
Stewart Foster’s elegant debut novel is a heartbreaking tale of a boy’s struggle with mental illness, set against the backdrop of the Space Race, 1970s summers and his family’s refusal to face the truth. - Mail on Sunday
There's so much to love in this book, he's such a beautiful, crisp writer. For a first book it's really amazing. - Review Show (BBC Four)
We Used to Be Kings is a very powerful book, written with a poignant intensity that often burns. It is one of the most touching books about madness I have ever read, and deserves a wide readership. Stewart Foster has created something very special. - Matt Haig
An extraordinary debut. The author trusts the reader to suss out the plot. - Irish Examiner
There’s a youthful intensity about this coming of age story. - Herald
Foster's descriptive narrative keeps you gripped and desperate to find out more. A really well-written and engaging first novel, We Used To Be Kings is an absolute must-read. - UK Press Syndication
Stewart Foster’s debut is a spectacular feat of ingenuity and courage that redefines the art of storytelling - Nudge
A highly original and hugely moving story of deep psychosis. Stewart Foster challenges us to live in his character's chaotic world, where the dead whisper in our ear, but throughout it all his compassion never falters. - Ciarán Collins, author of The Gamal