We Used to Be Kings

  • by Stewart Foster
  • Narrated by Tom Lawrence
  • 7 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 - and, ultimately, heartbreakingly unforgettable.
Stewart Foster lives in Wiltshire and is married with two children. We Used to be Kings is his first novel.


What the Critics Say

“Fresh and original, a sparse and moving tale that's never showy but often dazzling” (Tim Lewis, The Observer)
“There’s so much to love in this book, he’s such a beautiful, crisp writer. For a first book it’s really amazing.” (Mark Ravenhill, Review Show (BBC Four))


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A gathering storm

I have had a very hard time finding the words to review this book. It is so well written with characters that travel in your head even when you’re not listening. Traveling with Tom who carries Jack in his head as they get away from their care home to try to find their dad. And, through Tom’s thoughts, going back to the times before everything went wrong, seeing a warm and close family where the young boys felt safe and loved, but with a shadow already gathering overhead. Throughout the story you have the inescapable dread of how that shadow would spread, of how well intentioned decisions to shield the boys from sad, hard truths actually set disastrous events in motion that could never be taken back.

The narration could have been very tricky, but was handled brilliantly. Shifting constantly between Tom’s 18 year old voice and Jack’s 10 year old voice as they competed to tell the story, and as Jack tried so hard to be heard in spite of Tom’s efforts to restrain him. Their interactions defined Tom’s struggle between maintaining old delusions and facing tragic truths. This is not a light story. It has weighed on me over the several days since I finished it. But if I can’t say I enjoyed it in the entertaining sense, I can say that I admire its bravery and uniqueness.
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- Janice


What made the experience of listening to We Used to Be Kings the most enjoyable?

I'm not sure if you could say this book was enjoyable..but it was very good (in my opinion) It was a very sad depiction of a mentally ill boy who had experienced devastating loss in his young life. This story was quite unique. I havent read anything like this before. Told partly in first person we experienced first hand what it would be like to have another 'voice in your head' I did find it at times a little amusing, visualising this 18 year old boy man talking to himself as an 18 year old and with the voice of his brother a 10 year old.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Tom...who was Jack who was Tom

What about Tom Lawrence’s performance did you like?

He was very clever in differentiating the two characters one the 18 year old and the other the 10 year old..I was not confused at all who was talking

Any additional comments?

I did like this book..it has kind of haunted me. Depressing and sad..very well preformed and written!

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- debra

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-30-2014
  • Publisher: Audible Studios