BREAKING HER FALL by Stephen Goodwin

I am submitting this post to a Bookworms blog canival hosted by Reading is My Superpower, one of my favorite book blogs.  (A blog carnival is a regular collection of posts on a particular topic, all of which are posted on a particular blog). The carnival theme for this month is Surviving the Dog Days of Summer: Books That Take Your Mind Off the Heat.

I am deeply entrenched in the dog days of summer here in Washington, DC. The last few days have topped 100 degrees, without the typical late afternoon DC thunderstorm to clear the air and lower the temperature.

Until tonight, I’ve been escaping through the pages of Breaking Her Fall, by Stephen Goodwin, which is all the more remarkable given that the book is set… during a hot Washington DC summer.

Breaking Her Fall opens with Tucker, a single father of two, learning from another parent that his 14-year old daughter spent her evening not at a movie, as he thought, but at a party where she performed sex acts on a succession of high school boys.  His reaction is extreme; he heads to the site of the party and loses control when he confronts the young host and his friends. The book is about the aftermath of this disastrous night, and how his relationship with his daughter is affected by both of their actions.

I was thoroughly hooked from the start. Goodwin is a good writer; the prose flowed flawlessly without hitting many false notes. It was well-paced and lean, without extraneous characters and plots.  At times, I marveled at his ability to move the story along through subtle plot developments – I have always wondered how writers seem to come up wth those twists at exactly the right time.

Mostly, though, I was struck by Goodwin’s heartbreaking insights into parent-child relationships and how they are strained and changed by adolescence and the need for independence.  Goodwin also has a keen eye for modern relationships and the politics of upper-middle class urban society. I read somewhere that this book is about how “passion rearranges lives” – perfect description. I wish I had come up with it on my own.

I do take issue with the ending – I know this is a common theme of mine – I think that he went a little off-track toward the end, especially with the resolution of two of the three major plotlines.  I tend to have that complaint a lot – I think writers don’t always know how to close and end up being a little too tidy.  Real life doesn’t end cleanly – why should fiction?

I will also add that I got a thrill from reading a book with so much geographic detail – down to street names – that is set in a city that I know so well. It’s rare that you can picture the action taking place in your head with such familiarity and detail, and I really enjoyed it.

I have been recommending this book since page 20 and I will continue to do so. Very good read. And a great escape when the temperature tops the charts.

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