Atmospheric, intelligent, and engrossing… A remarkable feat.
Set in New Jersey, Panettiere’s latest literary mystery takes readers on one man’s journey to love and redemption. Struggling with his father’s early death decades ago, the New Jersey college professor Frank DioGuardia finds himself in a violent altercation with a would-be-assassin on New York’s Columbus Day Parade. The altercation brings him the realization that after three decades of marriage and children he had been inhabiting the earth for all the wrong reasons. But when he forms a close friendship with Dr. Laurie McDevitt, the emergency room physician who tends to his injuries after the incident, he realizes he has a companion in grief; Laurie’s father also died on the same night as his own. With media frenzy surrounding Frank’s heroic act, Laurie’s friendship becomes a saving grace. In narrating Frank and Laurie’s story, Panettiere brings together his fully fleshed-out protagonists, each of whom is working to reconcile the tensions between past and present and suffering and redemption, while also reckoning with the ghosts of the past. The sensitive, sincere, deeply conflicted Frank and the fierce, plainspoken, and alternately incredibly vulnerable and incredibly resilient Laurie, the two people who have a sorrow common between them, make for memorable characters. For much of the novel’s first half, Panettiere keeps Frank as a quiet, reserved man who silently struggles with the grief of his father’s traumatic death. But as the narrative progresses, Frank’s character sharpens into focus, and he beautifully adapts to scenarios increasingly out of his comfort zone. Readers will find themselves rooting for the man who seems incredibly reflective about his transformational journey as it happens. The secondary characters are equally compelling. The book’s great strength is in the way it depicts a person’s struggle with their past traumas. There’s no large-scale hope or drama to be seen; tragedies of the past have already left their lasting impression, and all that is left for the characters is to move forward while coming to terms with their lifelong sorrow. The prose is measured, the pacing expert, and the finale satisfyingly shocking. Panettiere wraps some heavy themes into the narrative such as marriage, friendship, family, passion, mortality, grief, trauma, trust, empathy, the transitional nature of life, and the after-effect of sorrow on a person’s psyche and the way it shapes the life of a survivor. A mesmerizing literary tale told by an impressive and captivating voice.
By Vincent Panettiere
Pub date December 12, 2021
Price $2.88 (USD) Kindle edition, $12.99 Paperback