Have you ever noticed that often books with similar themes seem to be published at nearly the same time? I think 2011 was the year of the bird since I could find that word in the title of so many that I read. There was also a sisterhood theme for a while- The Good Sister, The Bird Sisters..., and for a while I read several books about chimps/apes.
Earlier this year I read Defending Jacob by William Landay and loved it. And now Noah Hawley's The Good Father explores many of the same issues- the idea of whether you can actually know what your child is capable of.
Not to compare the two- although I have heard other people's comparisons, but Defending Jacob although told in retrospect followed chronologically and had an element of suspense (and then surprise at the end). The Good Father seems to be more of a character driven book than plot driven. We know from the beginning that Daniel who now prefers to be known as Carter Allen Cash, has killed a presidential candidate. Never once did I entertain the idea that he may not have been guilty of the crime, although his father struggles mightily with the idea. In fact, his father can't seem to let go of the idea that someone else was responsible for this and spends time and money investigating. While he tries to get his son off he also looks back at Daniel's childhood- how he was a product of divorce, how he was often absent from Daniel's life because of the fact that he relocated across the country.
Daniel's father is an intelligent man - a doctor of rheumatology -yet he can't seem to understand how his son could have grown up into the type of person who killed someone else, especially as he recalls Daniel's own reaction to violence when he was a child.
Interspersed in Dr. Allen's attempt to clear his son is a look back at other assassins. From Lee Harvey Oswald to John Wilkes Booth, Timothy McVeigh and Dylan Kliebold, the Good Father explores the different motives and actions of past assassins.
Daniel narrates a portion of this book himself and through this readers watch as he traverses the country, works a few odd jobs, and eventually kills a senator.
Unlike Defending Jacob, there is no big surprise ending. While these two books have a similar thread tying them together, they are still very different novels. Noah Hawley's book kept me interested from the beginning and I managed to find time to read this one over lunch at school and anywhere else I could sneak it in.