Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Good Father - Noah Hawley (review)

I wanted SO BADLY to read this book, and picked it up while working at the library. The book is the story of a father's perspective when a child is accused of murder, and worse, the murder of a future president, with all the public scrutiny attached.

It follows a father's quest for answers. Divorcee Dr Paul Allen is a prominent and well-respected specialist in medicine whose world is turned upside down by the news of what his son has done. Only he never really accepts his son's guilt. Initially he's convinced the boy never pulled the trigger, despite all evidence to the contrary. He makes it his mission to amass evidence himself, researching for umpteen hours, poring over reports and paperwork and generally neglecting his family in an insatiable quest to prove his son's innocence. His son, however, refuses to discuss it, and then pleads guilty.

Despite everyone around him begging him to accept his son's guilt, Paul continues as before. His focus changes from denial to a conviction that someone else must have masterminded the plot. He considers spy activity. He tries to blame terrorists. He points the finger at homeless war veterans. He is absolutely deaf and blind to what is staring him in the face; that his son grew up in a broken home and has grown up and done something terrible, and might face the death penalty.

Don't get me wrong, most parents in this situation would expend ferocious amounts of energy as Paul Allen did. The author did a good job at showing the virtual insanity that such a situation might induce. The problem is that I just didn't care. The book was a little too bogged down in minute details that didn't help move the plot along, and a little too short on positive traits that might have made me LIKE the father. Even his interactions with his son are largely absent - if he was openly hostile to his dad, perhaps I'd feel sorry for the doctor. Unfortunately, Paul's only actions were in denying all rational thought and neglecting his family, which made him a character I couldn't pity.

It's very rare that I can't finish a book, and even more rare that I get three-quarters through before abandoning it. But this is one where I had to. I was bored, and, like everyone apart from the father, I'd dealt with the heartbreak of his son's fate back in the first quarter. I'd finally arrived at the point where I didn't care what happened to the father anymore because his irrationality had just dragged on too long. I was even hoping his second wife and family would leave him, so that he'd be forced to take stock of his life (and to break the monotony of "Not his fault! Not his fault! I need to look into more clues and gather more evidence! Not his fault!").

Two stars.

Side note: my copy had multiple instances where a year was incomplete, such as a trial date like "21st January 20__" - the author had apparently intended to go back and fill the year in, but somehow it wasn't picked up by the editors. Multiple times. Maybe it was never copy-edited (which would explain why the father becomes an insufferable person). I am still giving the book two stars rather than one, simply because the author can actually write well. The book just needed plot work.