This novel was selected by my Skype book club for October's read. I vaguely remembered some fairly positive reviews, but I guess I had it in my mind that it was a psychological thriller. Like "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" kind of thing. That was definitely not the case, but was intense nevertheless. It is always fun to find a book is something completely unexpected.
Synopsis: At the beginning of the book, we find Peter Dizinoff, once a successful internist, once happily married and father of only son Alec, in complete despair. He has lost everything...his career, his best friends Iris and Joe, his marriage, and his son. He reflects back on happier times, and tries to determine where it all went wrong. And he believes it was the beginning of the end when his son Alec reconnected with Iris and Joe's older and street-wise daughter Laura.
For Peter, his life has been solely built around Alec. All hopes and dreams have been placed in Alec's hands, and Peter is determined that his son shall be successful, no matter what he must do as a father to make that happen. First it was the loser friends, then the drugs, then the arrests, then the dropping out of college. But when Laura (a girl with a past) comes back into town and starts sniffing around Alec, things go very very wrong.
How far will a father go to protect his son? How much should a parent try to control their child for the greater good? These questions, as well as issues of friendship and personal responsibility, are addressed in this emotionally-wrought tale of a family in crisis.
My thoughts: This doesn't happen often, but I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this book. I've given it alot of thought, and there were many aspects that made it a compulsive read, and alot that bothered me.
On the positive side, the plot pulls you in from page one. How could an upstanding guy like this totally fall apart? I mean, he has a solid marriage, he loves his son, he has a social life...this is a well-balanced fellow. The sordid tale unravels slowly, and I was anxious to get the whole story, to dig in and find the answer as quickly as possible. If I were to analyze my reaction from a distance, I'd probably say that I really wanted to reassure myself that, as a parent, I was incapable of having such awful things happen to me. That I would have more control.
And that is really what the story is all about. Parental boundaries and the micro-management of your child. We all know people like this, right? The ones that do their kid's homework, that dictate every breath a kid takes, manipulating relationships to their liking. It was maddening to me to watch all of this taking place in the story, with Peter having no earthly clue that his demise is completely his fault, even though his heart is in the right place. (Time for some more self-examination.) Realistic? Yes. Fun to watch? No.
I also felt that there were various other plot threads that wandered a little too far off course. I won't extrapolate too much, but there were all kinds of things going on here that was a bit off the subject, except maybe to better complete a picture of Peter's life. And it distracted me.
I definitely think this is a book worth reading for any parent (or anyone who knows a parent) as a cautionary tale, or someone who appreciates that not every discussable book is going to be a fun ride. I shall be highly anticipating the views of my book club members!
3.5 out of 5 stars