John Husted picks up his brother from prison with his mother, whose dementia charms her into thinking he’s coming home from vacation. The good son, John cared for his mom after his dad died, is now building his own family, continuing to monitor his mom in her home, and settles his ex-convict brother in with mom. It’s no surprise then that his father’s colleague, succumbing to a terminal illness, turns over his clandestine responsibility to John, who now must make a final, impossible decision.
This story started off with the hook of prisoners being released at the end of their term, the nitty gritty of getting out, which was interesting. When it came to the individual prisoner, the story slowed down a bit, until the family secret was revealed. Then it flowed. The reader spends a lot of time in John’s head, agonizing with him over the dreaded options that aren’t really options. Everyone else seems secondary to John, which makes sense for a man who took on a lot of obligation at a very young age.
This young age comes into play when John digs into his father’s past through old medical records stored in the original hospital behind the one Dr. Husted’s vision brought to fruition. He finds a chink in his father’s armor, an event that everyone else remembers and has chosen to forget, but is just like brand-new to him, because he was so young when his father died. He cannot resolve this news within himself, and it adds more angst to his awful final decision, so that he delays. His wife sees here some redemption for his nogoodnik brother – though Mike might believe that the world would be better if everybody smoked pot while listening to 80’s heavy metal, Robin understood that he could be the answer in this case. This leads John back to his family, as his mother becomes lucid long enough to share a story about herself regarding the incident that shows her altruism.
Matthews has a wicked sense of humor – John purchases hockey gear to tackle the rats nesting in the old medical records in the abandoned hospital, and the scene of the vermin ambush is so visceral the reader cringes, though John is sufficiently protected. Though he didn’t really expect to find his father in the meticulous medical notation, John is still disappointed – though he knew better, he did not find personal reports of his dad’s heroics by patients’ families or staff.
Readers who like shocking secrets, dark humor, and soul-searching conundrums will appreciate this story. Those who enjoy character evolution and complex family relationships will like this novel.
Thank you, St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley, for the opportunity to read this Uncorrected Digital Galley.