Verdict: Most of the book's focus involves Kip trying to get Steve away from his hallucinations by exposing him to new aspects of the real world. The book's major flaw is the author's penchant for using these excursions—both physical and intellectual—to such an extent that they seem like diversions, side roads the reader has to wander before returning to the central storyline.
Steve Perry and Kip Pierson are successful lawyers and partners in a Detroit law firm. Now in their thirties, they grew-up together, competing on the debating team in both high school and college. Initially rivals, they teamed up to form an unbeatable team.
As the story begins, Steve’s girlfriend, Linda, has been tragically killed by a drunk driver and Steve is inconsolable. He begins hearing voices and assumes it is Linda. After he confides this to Kip, his friend, alarmed at Steve’s behavior, decides to take him to Hawaii to help him recover. But Kip is hiding a terrible secret from his partner and best friend, one that could destroy their relationship.
Author Matthew Urdan supplies wonderful, detailed descriptions of the various geographical areas his characters inhabit, which includes both Michigan and especially Hawaii. He also provides poignant scenes between Steve and Linda which serve to make us understand what Steve has lost.
There are other minor characters like Ellen, Kip’s wife, Jonathan, another lawyer, and Justin and Susan, a brother and sister they meet on their travels. But most of the focus involves Kip trying to get Steve away from his hallucinations by exposing him to new aspects of the real world.
The book’s major flaw is the author’s penchant for using these excursions—both physical and intellectual—to such an extent that they seem like diversions, side roads the reader has to wander before returning to the central storyline. We hear about asteroids destroying dinosaurs, the USS Arizona, surfing, karma, genetic predisposition, Hawaiian folklore, an avalanche, geckos, magic and musical references, especially ABBA and Olivia Newton-John. It’s as if the author felt he needed to flesh out the book, but the result is a slowing down of the story’s momentum. At times the book reads more like a travelogue.
The odd thing is, when describing Kip and Steve’s back-story, Urdan gives us the outline for a more interesting book. Urdan has had experience in the debating world, which forms the basis of a tale revolving around Kip’s research being challenged in college, when he subsequently disgraced because he can’t substantiate his argument. Both Kip and Steve lose their scholarships and are shunned until Kip finally provides the proof. Fascinating stuff. One hopes in the future Urdan will pursue that story.
Kip finally reveals the secret that propels the last section of the book. Urdan does not give us a completely happy ending, which feels completely appropriate to the story.
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