A man on the run, grieving the end of his marriage and the loss of his child, returns to his small Minnesota hometown and reconnects with a lost love in Waxlax’s (The Earth Abides Forever, 2016) novel.
David Chapman built a life for himself in Los Angeles, complete with a wife and daughter, but he never forgot Angie Thomson, the hometown girl he loved before he was framed on drug charges and run out of town 33 years ago. After his daughter, Dani, is killed in a car accident, he and his wife divorce, and he decides to come home and confront his past. Angie still loves David, but she’s got her own messy past to overcome, including the murder of her mother; the institutionalization of her sister, Bunny; and her fraught relationship with her own daughter, Clarissa. What’s more, Randy Stark, the corrupt cop who framed David and once assaulted Angie, isn’t happy to see that David has returned. As David wrestles with his complicated feelings regarding Angie and Clarissa, they, along with Clarissa’s daughter, Elsa, try to get to the bottom of what really happened in the past so that they can move into the future. Waxlax has a compelling story idea, and he crafts some strong, complex female characters to anchor the narrative. However, the plot’s many twists, which include murder, rape, incest, and swapping sexual partners, feel a little over the top, instead of genuinely moving. The dialogue doesn’t always help; Clarissa, who’s romantically interested in David, asks her mother, “So are you claiming him or is it open season?”—a line that feels straight out of a soap opera. The tension between mother and daughter over the same man feels unnecessarily icky, especially as the story develops. If Waxlax had better grounded his characters’ actions in real emotions, it would have helped make this novel more accessible to readers.
A suspenseful but uneven drama.