cover image The Good Father

The Good Father

Noah Hawley. Doubleday, $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-385-53553-3

The father of a man who assassinates a presidential candidate tries to make sense of his son’s crime in Hawley’s gripping new novel. Dr. Paul Allen is a successful rheumatologist happily living with his second wife and their twin sons in a chic Connecticut enclave. Contact with Daniel, his aloof son from a previous marriage, is sporadic, and when Daniel drops out of Vassar in his first year to “see the country,” Dr. Allen shrugs it off as a youthful foible; he believes that shuffling between parents turned the boy into a “teenage gypsy.” Dr. Allen had seen him only once since then, a year ago in an Arizona coffee shop, so the Secret Service agents who appear at his door are a great surprise. Daniel, aka Carter Allen Cash, has shot and killed the Democratic presidential front-runner one warm June evening at a rally in downtown Los Angeles (not far from where Robert Kennedy was shot in 1968). Despite the overwhelming evidence against Daniel, Dr. Allen won’t believe that his son is guilty (he remembers his son as a member of Greenpeace and a liberal Democrat) and becomes convinced of a conspiracy involving a second man. His myopic attention to every detail of his son’s case, and to the cases of other famous assassins, puts everything he’s worked for—both professionally and personally—at risk. With great skill, Hawley (The Punch) renders Dr. Allen’s treacherous emotional geography, from his shock and guilt to his growing sense that he knows far less about his son than he thought. Initially privileged and priggish, Dr. Allen is humanized by his attempts to piece together the missing months of Daniel’s life; although not a good father in a conventional sense, Hawley’s complicated protagonist is a fully fathomed and beautifully realized character whose emotional growth never slows a narrative that races toward a satisfying and touching conclusion. Agent: The Susan Golomb Literary Agency. (Mar.)