This stunning novel of friendship, guilt, and madness tells the story of two friends torn apart by a terrible secret - and the dark adventure that neither of them ever meant to embark upon.
It's been ten years since the "incident," and Adam has long decided he's better off without his former best friend, Thomas. Adam is working as a tutor, sleeping with the mother of a student, spending lonely nights looking up his ex-girlfriend on Facebook, and pretending that he has some more meaningful plan for an adult life. But when he receives an email from Thomas' mother begging for his help, he finds himself drawn back into his old friend's world and to the past he's tried so desperately to forget. As Adam embarks upon a magnificently strange and unlikely journey, Ben Dolnick spins a tale of spiritual reckoning, of search and escape, of longing, and of reaching for redemption - a tale of near hallucinatory power.
This novel explores the power of secrets, both to harm lives and to lead to a greater truth. Two misfit boys become friends in grade school, then lose touch after a reckless mistake leads to tragedy. (The narrator doesn't seem like a misfit, but as you learn more about his messed-up 20s, he is not doing well.) The secret of that tragedy leads both boys to troubled adulthoods, and only by ultimately confronting their mistake can they move on. The novel deals with some great young-adult themes, like bravery, loyalty and duty. And the last third includes some great adventures, suspenseful and stirring.
Ben Dolnick writes with flair. His similes and metaphors are underplayed but well done, all in the right tone for the narrator.
Having said all that, the novel turns on several absurd coincidences. It is not especially believable. Thomas, the narrator's friend, is not always credible either. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the story.
Chris Patton did an excellent job narrating the novel. He had the right tone of wonder and enthusiasm that kept the reader's interest throughout.
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