“An education in the sympathetic imagination, a deep and bracing intellectual challenge, a powerful political statement. . . This is a novel to cherish”



This is the story of the Gordon Family.  Husband , Jonathan is a psychiatrist whose specialty is reaching troubled young boys and getting them to open up to him. The mother, Jane, is a well known author and Adam, the son, is in high school and is a first rate debater who is expected to win a national championship because of his skills.

The story weaves back and forth amongst the characters explaining their lives and their relationship to each other.  It is very well written, and at times absorbing.

After I finished the book I did a little research about it as it seemed  to me to be a tough review to write.  The book didn’t quite grab me to the point where I felt I could explain my feelings about it as it is so character driven.  For background I found that the Adam character also appears in the authors first novel.  The author was a member of the debate team as is the character.   The book would fit as a prequel to the first novel.

There is another main character in the book, Darren, a boy with problems and a patient of the Father, who is befriended by Adam.  The psychological aspects of this book loom large and Darren is a poignant reminder of how easy it can be to take on too much when befriending someone who really needs careful handling and how easy it is to make a mistake that could lead to disaster.

The writings about the debate contests is amazing as there is so much more to these intense contests than most of us appreciate.

The book has been rated as a top ten book of the year by the New York Times.  The reviews I looked at were extremely favorable towards the author and all of his work.  I just think the casual reader might not like it.


Reviewed by:

Richard Franco

Added 15th February 2020

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Richard Franco