A contemporary family drama, filled with angst and redemption.
While enjoying a warm Washington, DC, night with his semi-girlfriend, Tucker Jones receives a damning phone call: a fellow parent informs him that a party has gotten out of hand and Tucker’s 14-year-old daughter Kat can be found in the pool house fellating a group of drunken boys. Tucker rushes over, can’t find Kat, confronts a pack of smug teenagers, and somehow becomes involved in the accident that fells Jed Vandenberg. The teenager ends up losing an eye, the Vandenbergs file a multimillion-dollar civil suit against Tucker, the government files felony assault charges against him, and his ex-wife is threatening to move Kat to New York, since obviously Dad has lost control. Or has he? Kat is a good girl, an athlete, barely involved with boys, he himself is happy and successful, so how did he and his daughter get involved in this Jerry Springeresqe trouble? Though the legal implications are certainly distressing (as is guilt over inadvertently maiming the Vandenberg boy), Tucker’s real concern is Kat: the more he insists on closeness between them, wanting her to open up about all this mess, the more she shuts down and pushes him away. The tangled emotions seem appropriate given the events of the fateful July night, but when a few hundred pages are given over in dissection of them, the urgency of feeling becomes lost among the all talking. Though much else occurs: Tucker enters into therapy to sort himself out (and finds he is lonely for love); he considers a possible romance with his best friend Lily, who is married; Kat falls deeper into depression and becomes briefly involved with their housekeeper’s charismatic church, and Kat’s best friend Abby becomes pregnant by Jed Vandenberg. In someone else’s hand this would turn into a big sudsy mess, some kind of modern, therapy-driven Peyton Place, but Goodwin’s writing is too smart for that failing. Instead, it is weighted down by its own earnestness and worthy intentions, offering a sympathetic and labored analysis of all involved.
Serious, contemplative, and also slow-moving third from Goodwin (The Blood of Paradise, 1979, etc.).