A handsome, promising political candidate and his family are slammed by destiny and bad decisions.
In vignettes ranging from 1984 to 2010, Montemarano (The Book of Why, 2013) tells the story of David Christie and his three children—two of whom have never met. It’s a story with many dramatic and tragic turns that would be undercut if revealed in a review, so restraint will be exercised here. When it begins, Christie is running for a U.S. Senate seat from Pennsylvania, and his wife, Danielle, a theater professor at a small college, and his 16-year-old son, Nick, a charming high school football player, are standing in for him at a fundraiser in a mansion on Philadelphia’s Main Line. Danielle is putting a good face on it, but she’s sick of the whole ordeal. “Soon, she kept thinking, we can go back to normal. She didn’t like thinking that way, she knew how David hated to lose, but double digits two weeks out—it would take a miracle.” What happens next can hardly be described as a miracle, but it will catapult Christie to victory, and by 1991 he will be running against Bill Clinton and others for the Democratic presidential nomination. However, as this section of the book is titled: “Mistakes Were Made.” Montemarano's novel delivers strong, finely detailed characters and puts them in interesting, if unrelentingly painful, situations. On the downside, the texture of the national-politics setting is a little thin and predictable, some key parts of the story are never fully explained (when you finish it, tell us what happened in that car accident), and the creation of temporary unsolved mysteries by jumping back and forth in time can feel a little gimmicky.
Though the author may have bitten off more than he can chew here, his good instincts and courage make him a writer to watch.