While I’d rather not think about school shootings, the sad reality is that it’s a problem in our country. The fictional high school shooting in the novel Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon could easily occur in any school. This visceral novel punches its readers in the gut, but Reardon’s writing makes it impossible to stop turning the pages. You must read this book.
After receiving news of a shooting at his children’s high school, Simon rushes to his children’s high school. His daughter Laney is safe, but Jake is missing. The police are on a manhunt for Jake, whom they believe is an accomplice. At first Simon is positive that Jake is innocent, but as he discovers his son’s secrets, Simon’s belief wavers. The media coverage, the police searches, and the parents’ of his son’s dead classmates makes Simon question his role as a good father and his son’s innocence.
The novel alternates between the tragedy and its aftermath and Simon’s journey as stay-at-home father. Simon didn’t plan on becoming a stay-at-home father, but it made more sense economically. For seventeen years, he’s taken care of the daily childrearing while his wife heads to her law office each day. Simon revisits his past, trying to figure out where he went wrong during his years raising Jake.
My kids are still young, but reading this novel as a parent was hard. I yo-yo’d between wanting to hide the book and reading to discover what really happened with Jake. No one wants to imagine what it would be like to be in any parents’ shoes, much less Simon’s role. Obviously, I kept reading and finished the novel.
As a work-at-home mother, I appreciated seeing the story through Simon’s eyes. While stay-at-home fathers are becoming more common, Simon was the unicorn of his neighborhood. His role was different from social norms, but any stay-at-home or work-at-home parent can empathize with his isolation and self-doubt as a parent.
Bryan Reardon tackles the nuances of a tragic situation that shows the many sides of the story. The media is quick to point fingers, but the novel reminds us that in a situation like this, there’s no black and white.
Add Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon to your reading list. You’ll be glad you did.