Just Finished Reading: The Good Father by Noah Hawley (FP: 2012)
It’s always difficult for a parent when a child goes wrong. It’s more difficult for a father to watch his son drift away and then be caught on camera committing a crime. The guilt felt at such a moment is a palpable thing. Now imagine a father watching in stunned disbelief as his son, thousands of miles away, pulls out a gun and shoots the hope of a nation dead on television. Even before the echo of the gunshot has faded, or so it seems, there is an insistent knock on the door. Forcing himself to at least act normally he opens the door only to be confronted by serious men, dressed in black, carrying guns. “Dr Allen, come with us please?” With these seemingly innocuous words a father who has always considered himself to be a good man and a good father watches his world slowly fall apart. Could his son have really shot the front runner in the Democratic race for President of the United States? Could he have ended the hope of millions with a single bullet? Will his son join the growing line of disconnected lone killers who change the course of world history? Or is he, like so many before him, an innocent youth, manipulated, covertly trained, brain-washed and used as a deniable weapon by war mongers and arms dealers in order to keep their profits high as the war machine rumbles on. How did his bright little boy, who cried when a neighbour’s dog died, end up in a place where he bought guns, trained himself on shooting ranges and avoided security to kill another human being in cold blood? Was he, as his father, ultimately responsible for his son’s destructive act? As the investigation begins and the trail approaches the nightmare for Dr Paul Allen is only just beginning….
Told largely from two viewpoints – both father and son – as their lives move into eventual collision this is a gripping story of loss, regret, guilt and the facing up to the fact that we are not, and never can be, accountable for the actions of others – even our own son’s. The anguish of the father is real. Any parent reading this book will feel Paul’s pain as he tries to figure out where it all went wrong and pulls out all the stops to prove his son’s innocence. Anyone who has gone through their teenage years will identify with Danny as he struggles with issues of identity, resentment at his parents’ divorce and his disillusionment at the world which is much less, in so many ways, than he has been promised or as adults still pretend it is. The characterisation throughout is frankly superb. For the vast majority of the book both Paul’s and Danny’s thoughts are our thoughts and the reader cannot help but feel their pain as both of their world’s appear to be ending in front of them.
Salted throughout the novel are asides, investigations by both main protagonists, of earlier assassinations and spree killings. The details of each had a journalistic reality about them that brought them alive with the reader at the heart of the action. Highly ‘visual’ throughout I could barely put this down and on several occasions found myself reading late into the night and having to drag myself off to bed knowing I had work in the morning. Most definitely one of the highlights of the summer and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the movie version showed up at your local multiplex in the very near future. Highly recommended but I’d make sure that you had a few days of free time to give this novel the attention it deserves.