In Patrick’s debut novel, a teenager seeks out her father, who has bipolar disorder.
After her mother commits suicide, 15-year-old Regan Whitmer escapes her bad memories and her stepfather’s religious strictures to go in search of her biological father, Will Fletcher, whom she’s never met. He lives in Half Moon Hollow, Ohio (population 1,500), the kind of town that worships its high school football team and has little tolerance for people like Will, who has bipolar disorder. He used to be a veterinarian, but now he cleans up cages at the animal shelter. His younger sister, Janey, a comic-book artist, is his guardian, and if she can’t control him, the next step is institutionalization. Will, who once lost an infant daughter, doesn’t feel ready to be a parent when Regan appears, but Janey insists on welcoming her. As Regan adjusts to a new high school, Will’s reputation does her no favors, but popular football player Lane Barrett takes a liking to her, and the new school principal, Lindsay Shepherd, is kind. As various characters try to make meaningful connections—Will and Regan, Regan and Lane, Lindsay and Will, Janey and Lindsay—their efforts are often hampered by corrosive shame, loss, or regret. Dramatic events lead to revelations and reconciliations. In her debut novel, Patrick writes with sensitivity about the trials of mental illness for both sufferers and caregivers. She also captures Regan’s past and present struggles well, making her a thoughtful young person, not just a victim. The tragedy at the novel’s heart, the baby’s death, is also heartbreaking but not exploitative. However, the story is overloaded with melodrama, especially when the mayor becomes a hard-to-believe Snidely Whiplash–style villain. A final twist at the end is also ill-considered, badly undercutting the novel’s emotional logic regarding Will’s efforts to come to terms with a mistake. Still, Patrick’s hopefulness about recovery, friendship, and caring is well-earned.
A highly strung novel that’s strengthened by its attention to how people forgive and connect.