A seemingly perfect family is shattered when the eldest child, Daniel, is killed in a bizarre road accident in DeBoard’s (The Mourning Hours, 2013) second novel.
When a late-night phone call informs the Kaufmans of the tragedy in Oberlin, Ohio, the remaining family members follow differing paths of grief. The story is told from the perspective of teenage daughter Olivia, who's developed a myriad of anxieties, and father Curtis, a high school teacher who's unable to accept that this horrifying accident might truly have been just an accident. While wife and mother Kathleen focuses on moving on after the event she sees as “a freak thing,” Curtis is swallowed by his anger and grief. The marriage splits, and Kathleen moves back to her childhood home in Omaha, while Curtis and Olivia tailspin in Sacramento. Five years after the accident, Curtis receives a letter that the man responsible for Daniel’s death has been released from prison early. When a school activity results in a frightening episode with Curtis refusing to leave the roof, all while Olivia deals with the consequences of her deteriorating academic record, it's time for a change of scenery. Taking a leave of absence with the promise that Olivia will keep up with her schoolwork, Curtis hatches a shaky plan to enact revenge, setting off on a road trip with Olivia in tow. While Curtis plans his encounter with his son’s killer, Olivia uses the time in the car as an opportunity to confront her crippling phobias. There are plenty of tender father-daughter moments along the way, which serve as an interesting contrast to Curtis' inner turmoil as he struggles with his sense of duty to Daniel.
A thoughtful and often surprising examination of family life after a tragedy.