cover image Electric God

Electric God

Catherine Ryan Hyde. Simon & Schuster, $23 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-1118-5

Hayden Reese has never cried. Not when his younger brother died 36 years ago, not when his son died at birth, not even when, 15 years ago, he ended up in jail for assaulting his daughter's boyfriend and lost his wife and family. In Hyde's (Pay It Forward) latest novel of redemption and forgiveness, 50-year-old Hayden is a present-day Job, living alone in a little cabin in Northern California, reading the Tao Te Ching and attempting to control the violent outbursts that have plagued him all his life. Just as he thinks he has touched bottom, his girlfriend, Laurel, returns to her husband, whom Hayden beats up, getting shot and almost killed for his pains. In the hospital, Hayden is tended to by a feisty lady surgeon, and gets a second chance to reconcile with his past and set a new direction for the future. The natural cadences of Hyde's prose; her clever, realistic dialogue; her sharp descriptions of hard-scrabble country; and her warm humor raise the novel from the level of Touched by an Angel to that of a complex tale of one man's struggle to make sense of life. Inspirational rather than preachy or sentimental, the book wields the emotional power to be expected from a story of family, dogs, justice and self-reliance. (Dec.)