A kind man whose violent outbursts rob him of all he loves is the protagonist of Hyde’s third novel, slightly glib but possessing some of the quiet poignancy of its predecessor, Pay It Forward (2000).
Like a modern-day Job, Hayden Reese has been sorely tried. It’s bad enough that his hound Jenny, beloved companion of many years, died; that his lover, Laurel, went back to her husband; that he takes out his pain on the vet in his backwoods California town and ends up in jail (again); that Laurel comes around after he’s out and gets him to rescue her teenaged daughter, Peg, working against her will in a Nevada brothel; that Peg falls for him and sets in motion events that lead to Hayden lying in the dirt outside his house, bleeding from a shotgun wound inflicted by Laurel’s husband. Somehow (a bit too miraculously) he survives all of that, and angry, guilty, brawling Hayden gets another chance with Allegra, the daughter he hasn’t seen in 15 years. He’s angry because the wife he helped put through medical school left him when he nearly pummeled Allegra’s first date to death after the boy pawed her against her will. He’s guilty because he was having a first sexual encounter of his own when his reckless younger brother, whom Hayden had been ordered to be responsible for, decided to climb a transmission tower using a grappling hook and was electrocuted. And he’s brawling because that’s the way his strapping, archconservative father was; although he hates the man and beat him up before leaving home for good, using brute force was the only way he learned to cope with adversity. Now Allegra is getting married and wants him there, but first he has to make peace with the demons that have beset him for so much of his life.
A smooth, gripping yarn, though it doesn’t quite deliver all it promises.