The American debut of Dutch novelist Van Loon is a kind of domestic thriller about a young father who learns that his dead wife’s son is not his child.
Armin Minderhout is a latter-day hippie living in Amsterdam, where he and others like him can get pensions from the government and cheap day-care for their children. A freelance proofreader, Armin is married to Ellen, who acts as stepmother to his 13-year-old son Bo. Armin’s first wife Monika died a decade before, and he and Ellen have been trying without success for the last two years to have a child of their own. After a series of fertility tests, however, Armin is horrified to learn that he’s a victim of Klinefelter Syndrome and has been sterile all his life. How can this be? Monika and Armin were deeply in love—and Bo even looks like Armin. But the test results leave no room for doubt: Bo is not Armin’s son. After the initial shock, Armin tries to solve the mystery by doing some research. He first looks up Robbert Hubbeek, a lawyer whom Monika had been dating before she met Armin. Robbert freely admits that he and Monika continued to sleep together after she had started living with Armin—but not for more than a year before Bo was born. A former coworker of Monika’s named Nico Neerinckx is the next name on the list: He has a son of his own named Bo, but he’s not the father of Monika’s boy, either. In a permissive society like Holland’s, there is a great deal of sleeping around, and Armin isn’t shocked at Monika’s infidelity—until he discovers the true identity of Bo’s father. And it was? Let’s just say there’s a good reason why Bo has Armin’s eyes.
A well-constructed if somewhat dispiriting, perhaps even nihilistic, tale.