Verdict: Superbly written, THE BOY AND THE BASTARD is a gripping read from beginning to end.
A father’s continual search for his kidnapped son leads to the unexpected.
Gus Delaney has a successful career as an analyst. Wishing he could say the same about his family life, the only thing that brings the divorced Delaney joy is spending time with his children, Lily and Jack. Fortunate to have his kids for Christmas, Gus’s holiday is cut short when Jack suddenly disappears while trying out his new bike. A massive search leads nowhere and many presume Jack to be dead. Gus, on the other hand, believes deep down in his gut that his son is still alive. Emotionally crippled from his loss, Gus’s life takes a nosedive. But just as he gets his bearings, Gus learns the horrible truth about his son.
Newell spins a chilling story that not only reflects a parent’s worse nightmare, but also a surreal journey into the spiritual. Neatly divided into three parts, Newell’s debut features not one, but two principal characters. Newell’s third person split narratives zero in on the lives of an emotionally messed-up father and the traumatic happenings of a seven-year-old boy caught in a religious cult. Covering a ten-year span of time, Newell keeps his plot fluid by alternating concurrent and drama-filled character scenes from chapter to chapter while tightly weaving in an underlying feeling of tension. Also critical to the movement of his plot is the colorful foiled cast that has abilities to either make or break Gus and Jack.
Set initially in the late 1970s, Newell’s storyline takes a quick glimpse into the case of Patty Hearst. While younger generational readers may not think twice about her life, those who lived through that era will have flashbacks to the reports of a young woman who was abducted and then reappeared 19 months later not as a victim, but as a fugitive wanted for crimes in her involvement with the Symbionese Liberation Army. While not the same scenario in Jack’s situation, both represent perfect examples of brainwashing and the Stockholm Syndrome (when hostages express positive feelings toward their captors).
Superbly written, THE BOY AND THE BASTARD is a gripping read from beginning to end.