cover image The Good Son

The Good Son

Jacquelyn Mitchard. Mira, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7783-1179-9

The disappointing latest from Mitchard (The Deep End of the Ocean) begins with an irresistible dilemma and morphs into a long-winded, unconvincing melodrama. The setup: comfortable middle-class Wisconsin English professor Thea Demetriou must face her beloved 20-year-old son Stefan, who has just spent two years and change in prison for killing his girlfriend Belinda McCormack in a drug-induced frenzy. Formerly, Thea was friends with Belinda’s mother, Jill, who now dedicates her time to leading protests outside Thea’s house over Stefan’s lax punishment. Mitchard sensitively details Stefan’s painful reintroduction to society, the horrified response of the liberal community to Stefan’s attempts at rehabilitation, and Thea’s attempts to reconcile her love for her son with his crime. But Mitchard swerves disarmingly from psychological study to would-be thriller, as Thea receives mysterious calls from a young woman who says she knows what actually happened on the day of the killing, and starts to notice the presence of an unsettling hooded figure. Readers will likely figure out what’s going on long before Thea does, and the plot undercuts any emotional or ethical tension the book might have had. Those hoping for an exploration of the conflict between maternal love and moral responsibility will be frustrated. Agent: Jeff Kleinman, Folio Literary Management. (Jan.)