A heart-wrenching yet ultimately uplifting story of psychological suspense in which a parent is forced to confront what he does—and does not—know about his teenage son, in the vein of Reconstructing Amelia, Defending Jacob, and We Need to Talk about Kevin.
While his successful wife goes off to her law office each day, Simon Connolly takes care of their kids, Jake and Laney. Now that they are in high school, the angst-ridden father should feel more relaxed, but he doesn’t. He’s seen the statistics, read the headlines. And now, his darkest fear is coming true. There has been a shooting at school.
Simon races to the rendezvous point, where he’s forced to wait. Do they know who did it? How many victims were there? Why did this happen? One by one, parents are led out of the room to reunite with their children. Their numbers dwindle, until Simon is alone.
As his worst nightmare unfolds, and Jake is the only child missing, Simon begins to obsess over the past, searching for answers, for hope, for the memory of the boy he raised, for mistakes he must have made, for the reason everything came to this. Where is Jake? What happened in those final moments? Is it possible he doesn’t really know his son? Or he knows him better than he thought?
Even if the publisher hadn’t made the comparison, it’s easy to see that Finding Jake is along the same lines as several other books told from the perspective of a parent whose child is accused of committing a crime, such as Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. And it was my love for We Need to Talk About Kevin as a novel that particularly drew me to Finding Jake.
The perspective is a little different in that it is told from the view of Jake’s stay at home father, Simon. His wife, a high powered lawyer, works long hours, whilst Simon, who is a professional writer, cares for Jake and their younger daughter, Laney. Told in alternating chapters between present day and different times in Jake’s childhood, Reardon takes an intricate look at childhood, parental influence, and how Simon deals with his discomfort at being the sole father in their neighbourhood who stays at home.
As well as his own insecurities about himself, Simon is also rather insecure about his children – Jake is more of a solitary child, and it’s obvious that Simon sees himself in Jake, which in turn is very confrontational for him after the shooting. Did his actions and decisions as a father make Jake a loner, did he not have the right influence over his choice of friends and social interactions, and how can his outgoing daughter Laney, have turned out so differently?
I did like that the story flashed between past and present, and that Reardon spent a lot of time in building Jake’s childhood, and although there’s never anything that particularly stands out as a warning sign, it’s Simon’s insights and ideas that pushed me into indecision. Did Jake do the terrible things he is accused of? Did Simon’s choices isolate him and stifle his social interactions? It’s all very thought provoking and kept me reading as I was rather desperate to find out whether Jake was guilty or not.
The other angle that I found particularly interesting was the role of the media and the way that social media influences the reactions of the general public to the shooting – Jake is immediately vilified as being violent and socially inept based on some very innocuous videos he has uploaded, and the print and television media immediately jump all over the Connolly family, before Jake is even found.
Finding Jake isn’t a particularly original plot, but it does bring some interesting perspectives and ideas to the table. It’s thought-provoking, intense and at times incredibly moving and although quite similar to another book, it’s definitely a worthwhile read.