I spotted Noah Hawley’s novel The Good Father while I was out Christmas shopping a few years back. It was the crispness of the white on the cover that drew my eye to it, the critical reviews full of praise for the author. I later opened it up on Christmas morning as a gift from my parents, having said (as usual) that I would love to receive some books as my gifts. When I finally got around to reading The Good Father, I was completely hooked. It’s a book where you automatically see why the reviews on the front cover were so positive. Hawley’s novel is a rip-roaring read, an absolute rollercoaster that left me completely breathless.
The story tells of Dr. Paul Allen, a respected rheumatologist, who comes home from work one day to discover that his eldest son has been arrested for the assassination of the man hailed as the next president of the United States. Stunned, but confident in his son’s innocence, Paul sets out on a mission to prove that Daniel has been wrongly charged. Throughout his journey searching for something, anything that will save his son, he asks himself over and over again if it was his own fault that Daniel has come to this moment. It’s the basic story of nature versus nurture, brilliantly told, and tragically heart-breaking.
The novel follows both Paul and Daniel Allen’s journey. Paul’s, set in the present, details everything after the assassination has taken place. He slowly begins to piece together a timeline for his son’s final months before the arrest in an attempt to prove him innocent. These are Daniel’s chapters, focusing on the events in the past, ones that would eventually lead to him being arrested and charged with assassinating a presidential candidate. While Paul’s chapters show him struggling towards some form of acceptance, Daniel’s have him plummeting downhill toward total disaster. The two view points between father and son are on a collision course throughout the novel, pushing the question over and over again: did he really do it?
The Good Father explores one of the most important questions many of us will face in our lives. How much of an impact do parents have on how their children will turn out? Are they more heavily influenced by outside forces, or even their own individual personalities? How much does a child’s upbringing affect it in later life? Daniel Allen is a child of a divorced marriage, and Paul Allen constantly questions whether it was that time in his son’s life that potentially ruined him. He searches his memories, trying to pin-point the moment that could have signalled a detrimental change in his son.
Noah Hawley has written a brilliant thriller that will stick with you long after you read it. As a parent, I am sure The Good Father is a novel that reminds all parents of a fear they probably all have while raising children – the struggle to be a good parent, and to raise happy, emotionally stable children. And as a daughter, it is a stunning reminder of how much parents love their children, and the lengths they will go to to protect them.