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Monday, December 27, 2021

The Good Son by Jacquelyn Mitchard

The Good Son by Jacquelyn Mitchard
Published by MIRA, ISBN 9780369717559
Hardcover, $27.99, 352 pages

Author Ann Patchett said that if a book doesn't grab her from the first sentence or page, she will stop reading it. The first sentence of Jacquelyn Mitchard's novel, The Good Son, grabs the reader hard.
"I was picking up my son at the prison gates when I spotted the mother of the girl he murdered."

How can you not read on after that?

Thea was at the prison to pick up Stefan, her twenty year-old son who had just served nearly three years in prison for killing his girlfriend in a drug-induced haze. He was so out of it, he didn't remember what he had done.

As the story progresses, we discover that Stefan was obsessed with his high school girlfriend Belinda, and was distraught when she went away to college. They continued to see each other, and Stefan was planning on going to the same college when she was killed. 

Thea and her husband Jep saw that Stefan was obsessed, but didn't know what to do. For the past three years, Thea has visited Stefan in prison every chance she could, but her and Jep's life settled into a routine; Jep is a well-respected college football coach, Thea a professor. Other than the young women (organized by Belinda's devout and distraught mother) who protested about domestic violence outside of their home on a daily basis, life went on.

But things changed when Stefan came home. He had to adjust to life outside prison, and plan for a new life. No one would hire him. He was depressed, and Thea and Jep feared that he might harm himself. Stefan needed to find a purpose for his life or he was doomed.

There were repercussions for Stefan coming home. His release made people in the community uncomfortable, including the people at Thea's college. Now that people were face-to-face with Stefan and his crime, reactions to the family were different than when he was away in prison.

They were used to getting phone calls about Stefan's crime while he was in prison, but now a young woman keeps calling Thea saying that they don't know the truth about what happened the night Stefan killed Belinda. There is also a man who keeps showing up wherever Thea and Stefan are, trying to run them off the road, and even breaking into their home.

I liked the premise of the book- what if your child did something so horrible, it was unforgiveable? How do you live with that as a parent, and still love and support your son? Do you question what you did or didn't do as a parent? Mitchard does an wonderful job putting the reader in Thea's shoes.

There is the question of redemption, can Stefan redeem himself in his own eyes and the eyes of the community? And what does he owe the mother of the woman he killed?

Without giving away the ending of the book, I will say that I found the end disappointing. Up until the end, I liked where Mitchard had taken us with this book, but the resolution took it in a different direction. I really liked Mitchard's The Deep End of the Ocean, she knows how to write family drama that gets you right in the heart, and The Good Son does the same. I recommend it for that reason.

Thanks to Harlequin Books for putting me on Jacquelyn Mitchard's tour.

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