REVIEW: FINDING JAKE, BY BRYAN REARDON

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When the unacceptable happens to the Connolly family, as well as to others attending the upper middle class suburban school, there would naturally be lots of soul-searching. But to seventeen-year-old Jake’s father, Simon, the stay-at-home dad, the self-examination is excruciating.

Simon is having an ordinary day when he first hears about the shooting at the school, but as hours pass, and Jake is nowhere to be found, and when everyone around him is treating Jake like a suspect, even though a shooter has already been found, events seemingly implode.

Our first person narrator is Simon, and we see his interior life unfolding, scene by scene, and then sweeping back and forth through time, from before Jake was born, to each of the time lines of his life by years. It is almost as if Simon is searching for answers, but it is unclear whether or not this time-searching is happening in retrospect, and whether or not Simon is trying to find justification for what he now fears about his son.

Rachel, the wife and mother, is a high-powered attorney, and she seems slightly removed from everything, as if she is not part of it all. Except when she criticizes and frowns at whatever her husband says and does. I did not like her at all, and also found Simon to be extremely self-indulgent in his quest to figure out what, if anything, he had done wrong.

The only character I liked was Laney, the younger sister, who was unfailingly loyal and believed in Jake’s innocence.

At the end, I was stunned by what happened…and then wondered why I didn’t feel more. Perhaps because the entire narrative felt as though the one telling the tale was standing above it all, without any real feelings except his own self-reproach. A strange story of a tragic situation, Finding Jake: A Novel was not an enjoyable read for me, and not just because of the sad events, but because none of the characters, except Laney, felt like real people going through agony. 3.5 stars.