The Good Father by Noah Hawley – Book Review

The Good Father by Noah Hawley
Published by Doubleday, an imprint of Random House

Youthful indiscretions can cause inconveniences later in life, although hopefully they aren’t always life-destroying. For Dr. Paul Allen, his indiscretion was a particularly ill-suited marriage. He was a young and ambitious doctor, she was a flighty young woman. They might never have even stayed together, had it not been for an unintended pregnancy. Although the marriage ended, Paul would always have his son Daniel as a memento – at least during those times when he actually saw Paul. Now Paul has a new wife, two new sons, an entire new life into which Daniel barely fits. Many days Paul likely doesn’t even give his firstborn son much thought. All this changes one summer evening at a political rally in California when a promising young presidential candidate is assassinated and Daniel – now going by the name Carter Allen Cash – is accused of pulling the trigger. Suddenly, Paul finds that Daniel now consumes every moment of his life, as he tries to prove – even if only to himself – his son’s innocence.

From the first page, The Good Father sucks the reader in with each and every word. A child’s terrible act, a father’s guilt, and absolutely engrossing writing are the keys to The Good Father‘s success. Hawley’s structure was particularly interesting: in addition to Paul’s quest for the truth, we see excerpts of Daniel’s year of driving across the country before the assassination, as well as case studies of other political assassinations. As a rheumatologist, Paul is used to looking at the world as a medical problem, something with relevant case studies, and he addresses his son’s transgression in much the same way, even if he doesn’t realize it immediately:

I thought about how the clues in a human mystery are nothing like the clues in a medical mystery. With medicine you are dealing wth scientific facts. Tissue samples, blood tests. The human body is a finite entity, with a finite number of systems…. But with a human mystery, it is difficult even to decide what constitutes a fact. -p. 173

The Good Father is really about the journey of grief, guilt, and acceptance , but it also to a lesser extent explores the psyche of a young man losing his way. Both stories are resonant, and Hawley’s way with words makes this story irresistible. Highly recommended.

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The Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard – Book Review

The Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
Published by Doubleday, an imprint of Random House

On July 2, 1881 office-seeker Charles J. Guiteau shot President James Garfield at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station in Washington, D.C. Neither the bullet that grazed his shoulder, nor the one that became lodged behind his pancreas immediately killed Garfield, however. For the next two months, Garfield grew steadily sicker, as his doctors – like most American doctors at the time – eschewed Lister’s antisepsis techniques and repeatedly introduced infection into the President’s wounds.

Candice Millard’s The Destiny of the Republic is one of the most stunning works of narrative history I’ve read in some time. “Reads like a novel” is a phrase that gets thrown about too often, but in the case of The Destiny of the Republic, it really is true. Millard weaves together Garfield and Guiteau’s stories, along with those of Alexander Graham Bell, New York politician Roscoe Conkling, and, to a lesser extent, Joseph Lister. She provides just the right amount of background on each of these men and their work and lives; the reader gains a good understanding of how each man or his work interacts in this national tragedy without becoming bogged down by extraneous information.

Throughout The Destiny of the Republic it becomes clear that Garfield was a remarkable man and had the potential to be an incredibly remarkable president. Although he did not get the opportunity to prove his mettle in the presidency, his assassination served to revolutionize the politics, medicine, and other technology of the United States.

Garfield’s story is absolutely fascinating, and Millard relates it flawlessly. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, via ShelfAwareness.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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