In Zimmerman’s debut novel, an attorney takes a road trip as he grapples with guilt and seeks meaning in his life.
Gideon Roth is a lawyer in California’s Silicon Valley whose life is falling to pieces. First, he loses his last appeal for his client, Kareem Jackson, who’s put to death in the gas chamber after a 14-year legal battle. After the execution, he gets into a scuffle with a young punk. Gideon returns to his day job, but his current cases, involving intellectual property law, don’t stimulate him. His partners use his recent altercation as an excuse to fire him; then, his wife, Helen, tired of being neglected, leaves him. The changes make him contemplate what he’s accomplished in life. In his attempt to spare Kareem, who committed a heinous crime, Gideon discovered that his client’s grandfather was lynched and burned by the Ku Klux Klan. Kareem’s father, Jason, witnessed it; Jason was subsequently abused by his great-uncle and, in turn, abused Kareem. The resulting brain damage contributed to Kareem becoming a murderer. This starts Gideon thinking about 1964, when he spent a summer in Mississippi trying to register African-Americans to vote, and Klan members killed three civil rights workers. Gideon resolves to drive to Mississippi and kill the remaining men who escaped justice. The bulk of the novel proceeds at a leisurely pace as Gideon rides from his cabin in Washington state to Mississippi. Zimmerman uses this road trip as an effective framing device, allowing Gideon to reminisce about the recent and distant past in a continuing series of flashbacks. This clarifies why the protagonist sees only the failures in his life, and he hopes to balance karmic scales with violence. The author also makes clear that Gideon is grieving, and he affectingly shows how it takes other people to help him see the good that he’s done in his life. This sets up a race to stop a good man from doing a bad thing that readers will find riveting. In the end, the story reveals that even small improvements by individuals can result in lasting societal change.
A stirring, well-constructed story that follows a tortured man’s moral journey.