In first-time novelist McBride’s dramatic thriller, a successful businessman is shocked when his troubled teenage son accuses him of molestation.
Shane Connelly has made something of himself, a young hooligan–turned–college graduate now launching his own high-tech firm, Parallax Café Technology. His home life, however, is a different story. Both his wife, Tara, and teenage son, Nick, have mental problems, exacerbated by Tara’s heavy drinking and Nick’s frequent drug use. Shane, fed up with Nick’s late-night partying and family cars mysteriously vanishing only to turn up again, finally kicks him out of the house. That same day, Tara files a restraining order against Shane; Nick, it seems, has alleged that Shane’s been molesting him. Shane has believers in daughters Jaclyn and Caitlyn Joyce and his sister Katie, but he faces an uphill battle, struggling with the charges and confusion over why his son would accuse him of such things. The novel sometimes terrifies, showing how a simple allegation can make a person appear guilty. One of the cops who interrogates Shane, for instance, threatens him, while most people, even those supporting Shane, warn him that he’ll almost certainly be killed in prison. McBride ably develops sympathy for his protagonist, perhaps a little too well. Anticipation gradually diminishes as the case against Shane becomes increasingly rickety, especially with schizophrenic paranoid Tara as the only person who fully believes Nick’s claim. The story gives Shane a chance at romance with Lia, a woman he meets just before his troubles begin. He falls in love a little too fast—“Could she be the one?” he thinks, before Lia’s even talked about herself—but scenes with the two, as well as Jaclyn and CJ, are welcome reprieves from Shane’s tirelessly proclaiming his innocence. The story takes place in 2001, beginning months before 9/11, but McBride doesn’t allow the tragedy to be a mere backdrop. Shane and Lia’s helping others at ground zero, in fact, solidifies their relationship. The ending is predictable but absolutely satisfying, and Shane even earns a surprising, unlikely ally along the way.
An admirable but too-squeaky-clean protagonist in a story that capably manages its contentious subject matter.