Title: Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Suspense
Length: 272 pages
Book Rating: A
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
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
For sixteen years, Simon Connelly’s successful wife has gone to her law office each day, while he has stayed home to raise their children. Though Simon has loved taking care of Jake and Laney, it has cost him a part of himself, and has made him an anomaly in his pretty, suburban neighborhood—the only stay-at-home dad among a tight circle of mothers.
Shepherding them through childhood, the angst-ridden father has tried to do the best for the kids, even if he often second-guesses his choices. For sunny, outgoing Laney, it’s been easy. But quiet Jake has always preferred the company of his books or his sister to playdates and organized sports. Now that they are in high school, Simon should feel more relaxed, but he doesn’t. He’s seen the statistics, read the headlines.
Then, on a warm November day, he receives a text: There has been a shooting at the high school.
Racing to the rendezvous point, Simon is forced to wait with scores of other anxious fathers and tearful mothers, overwhelmed by the disturbing questions running through his head. How many victims were there? Why did this happen? One by one, parents are reunited with their children. Their numbers dwindle, until Simon is alone. Laney has gone home with her mom. Jake is the only child missing.
As his worst nightmare unfolds, Simon begins to obsess over the past, searching for answers, for hope, for the memory of the boy he raised, for the 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? Jake could not have done this—or could he?
As rumors begin to ricochet, amplified by an invasive media, Simon must find answers. But there is only one way to understand what has happened . . . he must find Jake.
A story of faith and conviction, strength and courage, love and doubt that is harrowing and heartbreaking, surprisingly healing and redemptive, Finding Jake asks us to consider how well we know ourselves . . . and those we love.
Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon is a suspense-laden and emotion-filled novel that is every parents’ worst nightmare: a shooting at your child’s school. What makes the story so compelling are several unanswered questions: the fate of a missing student, his involvement (if any) in the shooting and how well do parents really know their children. There are several other fascinating elements to the storyline that are also quite thought-provoking but discovering the answers to these three questions is what I found most riveting.
Simon Connolly is a stay at home dad who has always worried about his two kids, Jake and Laney. He agonizes over the smallest details of his parenting but in the aftermath of the school shooting, he cannot help but obsess over whether he made the right decisions for both kids, but Jake in particular. When the parents of the students begin to learn the fate of their children, Simon is the last parent to receive information about Jake, but he is left reeling at the news that Jake is a suspect in the shooting and that he is, in fact, missing. His son’s connection to the troubled suspect is tenuous but police immediately focus on Jake as a co-conspirator and Simon is left wondering if he overlooked signs that Jake is capable of committing such a heinous act of violence.
Simon is panicked from the first notification that there is trouble at the school and he remains that way for much of the novel. He flashes back to different moments in Jake’s childhood and the picture of a quiet, shy, introverted child quickly emerges. Simon wonders if he imparted the right lessons to his son and if he made the right choices during pivotal moments of Jake’s childhood. While Simon’s wife and daughter never doubt Jake’s innocence, Simon is plagued with misgivings and uncertainties that cloud his judgment in several instances. In a moment of startling clarity, Simon finally puts the pieces of the puzzle together and he is nearly shattered by his subsequent discovery.
School shootings are particularly horrifying crimes and it is easy to make snap judgments and leap to conclusions in an effort to understand the incomprehensible. Friends and neighbors are the first to point fingers and distance themselves from the alleged perpetrators. There is intense pressure on law enforcement to provide answers and reassure the public that they have solved the crime. Parents are easy to blame when their child misbehaves and in a school shooting, it becomes imperative to assign responsibility and parents are often burdened with guilt and their decisions are closely scrutinized. Each of these topics are realistically explored in Finding Jake and the reactions of the various characters ring true.
Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon is an incredibly well-written novel that is poignant, tragic and ultimately, quite moving. An absolutely absorbing read that is incredibly relevant in today’s world and one that I highly recommend.