by Bryan Reardon

FINDING JAKE examines a father's perspective within the all too common current events of school shootings within a fictional setting.  How many of us who read the news wish we could see the parents' thoughts from the inside?  FINDING JAKE takes us on that journey, and yet, the journey is not exactly what one would expect from reading the news.  Bryan Reardon's fictional imagination shifts the paradigm slightly off center with his choice of characters and the inclusion of plot twists.  The changes in this fiction context keep the story fresh and the characters from being stereotypes.  Under another author's pen, the topic might become cliche.  FINDING JAKE, however, transforms the story. 

The narrative structure of FINDING JAKE alternates between rapid unfolding of the present day events and the father's memories of his son in a search for answers to his son's identity.  As the novel progresses, the reader empathy for the father grows.  One feels his sense of shock and isolation from the community.  As the clues amass, I found myself racing through the pages, wanting to stand by the father as he races for clues to find is son.  Where is his son?  Who is his son? 

FINDING JAKE is emotionally powerful.   Quite simply, FINDING JAKE is one of the better novels I have read recently.  FINDING JAKE is a book that this reader will remember long after the last page has been read. 

The last chapter functions as a kind of epilogue to bring closure to the story.  Unfortunately, this epilogue dilutes the intense power of the novel.  The previous scenes provided a more powerful, more mystical and farther-reaching and more satisfying but less literal previous closure.  Without the functional epilogue, the FINDING JAKE would have been my choice for an outstanding book.  Is the book still one of the the better books I gave recently read.  Yes!  Would I still highly recommend this book?  Yes!  Would I still be eager to read the author's next novel?  Yes!  Perhaps I might have felt differently if I had stopped reading before and then read the last chapter or so a month later.   Coming so close to such a powerful climax of the novel, it just felt trivial and perhaps cliche.  I think my disappointment was heightened by the fact that, up until this point,  the author dealt with such a newsworthy topic without trivializing or falling into stereotype, that it was more disappointing than perhaps in a lesser just ok or very good novel.  I still highly recommend this book-- but a reader might choose to stop reading after the final intense moment--and then pick it up again a while later when one wants to see what happened to the characters after much emotional time has passed.

William Morrow (February 24, 2015)

Publisher's Description

A heart-wrenching yet ultimately uplifting story of psychological suspense in which a parent is forced to confront what he does—and does not—know about his teenage son, in the vein of Reconstructing Amelia, Defending Jacob, and We Need to Talk about Kevin.

While his successful wife goes off to her law office each day, Simon Connolly takes care of their kids, Jake and Laney. Now that they are in high school, the angst-ridden father should feel more relaxed, but he doesn’t. He’s seen the statistics, read the headlines. And now, his darkest fear is coming true. There has been a shooting at school.

Simon races to the rendezvous point, where he’s forced to wait. Do they know who did it? How many victims were there? Why did this happen? One by one, parents are led out of the room to reunite with their children. Their numbers dwindle, until Simon is alone.

As his worst nightmare unfolds, and Jake is the only child missing, Simon begins to obsess over the past, searching for answers, for hope, for the memory of the boy he raised, for mistakes he must have made, for the reason everything came to this. Where is Jake? What happened in those final moments? Is it possible he doesn’t really know his son? Or he knows him better than he thought?

Brilliantly paced, Finding Jake explores these questions in a tense and emotionally wrenching narrative. Harrowing and heartbreaking, surprisingly healing and redemptive, it is a story of faith and conviction, strength, courage, and love that will leave readers questioning their own lives, and those they think they know.


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