THE GOOD FATHER by Noah Hawley

I recently wrote a post about Parent’s Worst Nightmare books, inspired by the book that I was reading last week, The Good Father by Noah Hawley. The Good Father definitely deserves a spot on that list. It’s about Paul Allen, a successful 50ish doctor living in Connecticut with his second wife and their twin sons. His oldest son, Daniel, from his first marriage, is a bit of a drifter – he has recently dropped out of college and hasn’t been in touch for a while. Soon after the book opens, Paul learns that the Democratic presidential frontrunner has been shot and killed at a rally in L.A., and that Daniel has been arrested for the crime.

The rest of the book is about Paul’s attempts to understand what happened, to exonerate his son, and to come to terms with his own guilt about not being there for his son as he was growing up. It’s also an examination of Daniel’s mental state in the months leading up to the shooting, what brought him to L.A., and what might have motivated him to do what he was accused of doing.

I liked this book a lot. It’s a very difficult topic – what role does a parent play in the bad deeds of his children? At what point must a parent let go, and how does he recover from the loss of a child – and control over that child? There are chilling details throughout the book – depictions of mass murderers and their motivations, their last meals, their executions – all research that Paul does meticulously to understand the mind of the killer.

Heavy stuff, indeed. But this is a very well-written book and while difficult, a good read.  I had to put it down at times just because it was such a tough subject atter. Here’s a passage I liked a lot:

America was a country that believed that crime was who a person was, not just what they did. In this light there could be no such thing as rehabilitation, only punishment And part of that punishment was, inevitably, the ostracism and conviction of a convict’s family.

Some of the passages about Daniel’s meandering journey to LA could have used a little tightening, and some of the book felt repetitive at times. But overall this was a really good read. If you can stomach the subject matter, I really recommend it. It comes out next Tuesday, so pre-order it now or go to your bookstore next week!

Thank you to Doubleday for the review copy of The Good Father, which showed up unsolicited and was a very welcome surprise.