Lackluster sequel to Mitchard’s Oprah-anointed debut.
In The Deep End of the Ocean (1996), kidnapping victim Ben Cappadora returned as a teenager to his parents Beth and Pat, owners of a popular Chicago Italian eatery. Now 25, Ben has married Eliza, adopted Bolivian daughter of Candy, the detective who helped investigate his disappearance. Ben and Eliza have a six-month-old daughter, Stella. Meanwhile, Ben’s ne’er-do-well older brother Vincent, bankrolled by local godfather Charley Seven, has filmed a documentary about the families of other kidnapped and disappeared children entitled No Time to Wave Goodbye. Beth is conflicted about the movie, not just because of the debt to Charley (who’s really a pussycat), but because it reopens old wounds—for example, the fact that Ben still thinks of himself as “Sam,” the name his kidnapper gave him, and is actually closer to the kidnapper’s husband than to his real father. Shortly after Vincent receives an Oscar for No Time to Wave Goodbye, Stella is snatched from her babysitter. Candy and Beth mobilize their forces, but police have no leads. Then a letter appears, penned in pretentious prose complete with Latin legalese, leading Vincent to recall the straitlaced lawyer in his documentary whose favorite daughter vanished at age 17. The book’s most gripping sequences follow, involving wilderness survival in the Northern California mountains. Ample detail based on Mitchard’s own backcountry treks lends verisimilitude as Ben and Vincent search for Stella aided by a seasoned guide and her trusty kidnapper-sniffing St. Bernard. The proliferation of characters may confuse readers, especially those unfamiliar with the earlier book, and a disproportionately large chunk of the narrative is devoted to exposition.
The solution to the Stella puzzle is fairly obvious, while other mysteries—such as a plausible motive for the villain—go unplumbed.