ROBERT, MY SON by Henry Denker

ROBERT, MY SON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Denker's newest medical melodrama (The Healers, Kincaid) seems designed to instill in all parents of a bright, daring if moody overachiever the fear that their child may actually be clinically insane, and that the aforementioned traits are just symptoms of the illness. We meet the beautiful former star of soap operas, Claire Ward, and her network V.P. workaholic husband, Don, who is never home (guaranteed bummer) when his son needs him; Robert, their adopted son, is brilliant, athletic, idealistic and genetically cursed with manic depression. The plot clanks along by formula: in typical horror-story fashion, the perfect boy's affliction shows up first in small ways, then swells to vast and incredible proportions--at a punk-rock concert he jumps up onto the stage and tries to wrest the guitar out of the hands of the leader, provoking a riot. But his worst breakdown is precipitated when, though his team's ahead, quarterback Robbie throws away the ball in the last 14 seconds of the championship game. Next we have a rote detective mini-plot as the Wards trace Robert's natural mother, only to learn that she committed suicide in an asylum. Calamity follows upon calamity, and the characters, with their slow reactions and perpetual amazement, are ludicrous indeed. At the end, we sit for the second time through the same vigil with his parents--word for word--that we witnessed in Chapter One. Worst of all, Denker trivializes the complexity of mental illness, particularly among minors, dealing with it as a creepy foreordained disease in which the patient's only hope is to passively take his drugs. If Robert, My Son surprises at all it is simply that at the end of a work so devoid of any save accidental humor, it is revealed that the grim Don Ward will embark on a new career as a comedy writer--too late, though, to save this book.
Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1985
ISBN: 0688059570
Page count: 311pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1985




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