‘The Good Father’ is a mesmerising piece of fiction. Riveting from the start, it’s the first book in a very long time that I have read to the exclusion of pretty much everything around me. (Ironically this includes the children). The book opens with the assassination of a hugely popular Democrat presidential candidate. Dr Paul Allen is watching TV with his second wife, and their two children when the news comes through. They watched the rolling newscast until a name and photo of the alleged killer appears on their screens. It’s Danny, Paul’s son from his first marriage.
The book then follows Paul as he tries to come to terms with what his son has done. Danny’s parents split when he was young. Paul was a successful doctor who moved to the East Coast whilst Danny and his Mum stayed in LA. Danny used to make the cross-country flights on his own. How culpable was Paul in Danny’s journey to deadly assassin? Should he have been there more when Danny was growing up? In order to assuage his guilt, Paul tries to piece together the events of Danny’s life in the lead up to the shooting. The more he does so, the more the facts don’t quite seem to match up. Was Danny acting alone, part of a plot, or a stooge in a sinister conspiracy? How objective can Paul be when trying to prove his son’s innocence? It has all the ingredients for a thoughtful and intriguing novel, and that is exactly what Noah Hawley serves up.
Not only is the story excellent, Hawley’s prose is effortless to read. On just about every page there is a turn of phrase or observation that is so delightfully spot-on it sent shivers down my spine. Perhaps because I am about to become a dad of three, and have two boys already, that I identified so readily with Paul; Hawley seems to encapsulate fatherhood almost perfectly. Not only that, his depiction of the isolation of modern society and the difficulties of young-adults trying to work out how they fit into that society is well-realised. There is also a potted history of US political assassinations which is as chilling as it is interesting.
Comparisons with We Need To Talk About Kevin are inevitable, but this is so much more than a father’s viewpoint of same story. The two novels complement each other well, and ‘The Good Father’ is every bit as good. I have been reviewing books since the beginning of 2008, and this is the best book I’ve read to date. Brilliant from start to finish, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a book deserves to be huge, and in the year of another presidential election, I’m pretty sure it will be.