Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Deeply Moving Tale of Fatherhood - "The Good Father" by Noah Hawley

Sometimes you can tell something about a book by its cover. I must share the experience I had when I opened the package from Amazon that contained the volume "The Good Father." I was struck by the Scotch tape that appeared to be holding together a torn front cover. I was shocked, because I have come to expect Amazon book to arrive in pristine condition. Then, upon closer reflection, I saw that the cover had been printed to look as if it had been torn, and a piece of real Scotch tape had been added to complete the illusion. As I began to read this remarkably moving book, I was looking for an explanation of the meaning of the torn cover. I discovered the link on page 222. The narrator, a father who is agonizing over the mystery of why his teenage son would choose to assassinate the leading Democratic candidate for President, is remembering a camping trip they had taken together years earlier:

"Later, I lay in the tent listening to the sound of his breathing. It was a sound I hadn't really listened to in years, the rhythmic sighs of my eldest son as he slept. He had been a baby once, needy and small, but that time had passed. Where had it gone? How can life move so quickly? Now he was a fifteen-year-old boy with a teenager's mustache. Now he was a book with a torn cover. I had known him once, his tiny body, the energy of his smile, the smell of his breath, but he slipped away from me." (Pages 222-3)

In looking for clues to his son's behavior, Dr. Paul Allen becomes obsessed with getting inside the minds of other notorious assassins. In the course of the novel's development, this troubled father comes face to face with his fatherly failures, and comes to grips with the many layers of questions regarding to what degree we as parents are able to shape - or misshape - our progeny. This is an unblinking examination of what it means to live with the results of the choices that a flawed, all-too-human parent makes - choices that have profound influence on a malleable son.

Author Noah Hawley has crafted a masterful tale that I found deeply moving and thought-provoking.



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