The first of Noah Hawley’s four novels to be published in the U.K., The Good Father has been dubbed ‘We need to talk about Daniel’ (James Kidd on www.theindependent.co.uk, 01/04/12), but is an easier read than Lionel Shriver’s modern classic. This is not to say that it isn’t a powerful narrative, but rather that the writing is simpler and less challenging than in We Need to Talk About Kevin, which I personally found a bit of an unremittingly miserable slog of a novel.
Paul Allen is a renowned New York doctor, living a perfect life with his second wife and their twin sons in Connecticut. One evening, whilst eating homemade pizzas, Allen sees the breaking news about the shooting of the favourite Democrat presidential candidate, Jay Seagram. At the same moment, the doorbell rings and he opens his door to two men who have come to take him for questioning. As he is protesting, his wife, Fran, tells him that the news has a video of the shooting. The boy filmed with the gun is Daniel, Allen’s son from his troubled first marriage.
After Danny’s arrest, Allen spends the next year searching for answers. He is convinced that they have got the wrong man, that his son, however wayward and aimless, cannot possibly be guilty of such an atrocious crime. Danny might have quit college and become a wanderer, but he is not a killer. He spends countless hours pouring over accounts of other assassinations and shootings, sure that his son does not fit the profile of killers such as Lee Harvey Oswald and Eric Harris, one of the Columbine shooters. When he finally accepts that Danny might have actually pulled the trigger, he is once again convinced that it was not his fault. Obsessively mulling over other theories, Allen does everything to avoid looking at whether his divorce from Danny’s mother, Ellen, started a chain of reactions within his son that led him to shoot Seagram.
Told alternately from the point of view of both father and son, The Good Father looks at the lengths to which a father will go in order to understand his son’s actions, and at the unconditional love that a parent has for their child, even in the face of horrific possibilities. A page-turner, told with great honesty and humanity.