It's the old cliche about a good book, but with Noah Hawley's 'The Good Father', I really couldn't put it down!
It's easy to say what the book is about, the story of estrangement between a father and his grown up son, a relationship broken since divorce years before, now brought into the spotlight through the unexpected murder of an up and coming Senator by the lost boy. The information about the plot is not enough though, it's a book you have to feel.
The sudden reordering of the Father's emotional world is shattering, his intense introspection and the impact on his new family heartbreaking. It reads like a thriller, at times with a touch of Grisham's legal procedure, mixed with big widescreen vista roadtrip descriptions of small town America. The truth as it begins to emerge is hard to swallow and you are left googling to see if this novel is really a true story.
What is most striking is the ordinariness of the lives of this family. They look just like us and those who live around us. They are essentially good people who have made the same kind of mistakes that so many of us have. Divorce, too many hours at the office, selfish choices. If we ever think it doesn't matter or we'll catch up in the end, this story is the ice plunge pool to wake us from such a notion. In short, it's like looking in a mirror in a harsh light at the impact on society of divorce that we like to pretend isn't there, that is really doesn't affect the kids all that much. Here it does, and deep down, we know it too.
That the father is driven to breaking point to redeem himself with his broken son is painful, sad and touching. His deepest longing is to be reconciled, and he refuses to think the worst of his boy. Even when he finally accepts that the son is guilty, it's as though he takes the guilt on himself, wanting to save him, to take responsibility for shaping a son who became a killer.
Reading this review it sounds like a depressing book, but somewhere in there is a story of redemption, not of confusion and meaninglessness. I don't think it is written as an allegory, but the narrative has glimmers of hope that stretch like a shadow to the perfect father. The father that none of us ever had and none of us ever will be. The Luke 15 Father who never gives up, never stops searching, never believes the worst, and takes all the disgrace on himself to bring you home. This exceptional book leaves you broken hearted, but yearning for a true dad, the ultimate good father.