Dr Paul Allen is a well-respected man. He lives a comfortable life with his second wife and their family. Until the night when a knock at the door blows his world apart: a hugely popular presidential candidate has been shot, and they say the young man who pulled the trigger is Paul’s son. Daniel, the only child from his first, failed marriage, was always a good kid and Paul is convinced his quiet boy is not capable of murder. Overwhelmed by a vortex of feelings, Paul embarks on a mission to understand what happened and why. Following the trail of his son’s journey across America, he is forced to re-examine his life as a husband and a parent, and every decision he ever made.
Have you ever had the sense that you truly know someone? The belief that you can identify with them deep down: their every thought and feeling. Then, in another instant the certainty is shattered, replaced by the realisation that you never knew them at all. Instead, that what you took to be a connection, an understanding, was you convincing yourself that all was well; the delusion that the relationship you held was one that was infallible.
As Dr Paul Allen lives carefree in the unspoiled happiness of his life – a perfect job, a wonderful second wife and two kids – his world is suddenly turned upside down by the arrival of the news that his son has murdered the potentially future president of the United States. Paul strives to understand what has happened, refusing to entertain the idea that his son has carried out these acts. He will go to extraordinary lengths, as far as it takes to try to prove his son’s innocence, but as events unfold and the thread which holds his comfortable lifestyle together starts to unravel, Paul must face the grim reality and make some important decisions.
Noah Hawley’s novel The Good Father is at the centre a story about journeys: a young man on a quest for identity and meaning, sprawling across the states of America, wandering aimlessly in an effort to find some answers about who he is; unable to throw of the chains of restraint clamped on him from a chaotic childhood. A father who frantically follows in race against time; his once rational, scientific mind reduced to theories and conspiracies in an effort to ignore the truth: that he was never quite the father his son needed. As a doctor he has learned to be objective, to break down the facts methodically, logically; to be emotionally detached. Yet as we all know, sometimes the emotions of the heart leave one unable to accept what is often staring you right in the face.
From a farm in Iowa, home to nice parents who are willing to give a young man a chance, to the college dorms of alcohol-drinking, drug-taking students, Hawley takes us on a sweeping journey through the United States, painting a picture with the endless pit of different characters that he has to offer. Interspersed within the plot, the author presents us with a wealth of knowledge: from information on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, to the exploits of other famous killers such as Charles Manson – facts both fascinating and thought-provoking. His writing is at times heart-wrenching, always utterly compelling, and ultimately Hawley leaves the reader asking questions about themselves and the type of person they really are.