Author: Bryan Reardon
Published: February 2015, William Morrow & Company
Format: ARC Paperback, 272 pages
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, Finding Jake 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.
My thoughts: This is a very emotional, difficult read, but a brilliant one, nevertheless, that takes you on a journey that no one ever wants to go on, especially not a parent of a teenager. I may not have children myself, but I do have many nieces and nephews and can only imagine what it would be like to be in Simon's shoes.
I've read quite a few books that touch on tragedies involving some type of school violence and find that each one is handled completely differently. Here, we have a school shooting and we find out rather quickly that the one shooter is killed, but is there a second shooter? And is that shooter Jake?
Told from Simon, Jake's father's, point of view, the story moves back and forth in time from the present day to the past as Simon relives his memories of raising Jake as a stay-at-home dad. Jake is missing and there are many questions that cannot be answered until either he is found or his body is found. Simon looks back at Jake's life and wonders if in fact Jake could have been that second shooter...were there clues that perhaps he should have seen?
The writing in this book is palpable - my heart was racing almost the whole time I was reading this. I was all over the place with my thoughts on what was going to be the outcome. I empathized with the parents and felt outraged against the neighbors and other school parents for assuming the worst once they realized Jake was missing.
While this is a relatively quick read, it's one that will no doubt stay with you long after you finish that last page. We see the insecurities that parents go through when tragedies strike close to home as well as that eternal love that a parent has for a child. How far will a parent go to protect their child?