In Kane’s debut novel, after wealthy suburban parents lose their teenage son to a freak accident, they bring in a lookalike “secondary” to replace him.
The Twitchells are an all-American family with an athletic, outgoing son, Robby, and a smart-beyond-her-years daughter, Jen. They have a big house, a fleet of fancy cars and loads of friends. One day, Robby fatally bangs his head while trying to jump from the top of an abandoned mill to the river below. His devastated father, Bert, tries to think through the situation as if it were business related; he recalls paying the family doctor many years ago to duplicate Robby’s embryo, implant it into a surrogate mother and then raise the identical-looking boy among other so-called secondaries. “A duplicate,” the doctor calls it, “that can be waiting in the wings…should anything happen to the star.” Up until Robby’s death, the secondary had been out of sight and out of mind. But after much discussion, the family decides to take him in, give him Robby’s room and name him Bobby. The secondary has spent his entire life so far on a ship he was not allowed to leave. He knows virtually nothing about U.S. culture, history, sports or geography, and he has an entirely different personality from his genetically identical brother. Will he be accepted by the community? And can he live up to his newfound relatives’ expectations? Using a stream-of-consciousness style, Kane tells the story from a number of different perspectives. Some of his writing could have been tightened, particularly the comma placement. Nonetheless, Kane succeeds with fairly snappy dialogue, believable characters and suspenseful action scenes. He artfully examines parental heartache, suburban materialism, adolescent peer pressure and the ethical dilemmas surrounding modern science.
A multilayered albeit structurally raw look inside a grief-stricken family.