Dr. David Conners has a good life — a successful medical practice, a stable marriage (although it has had its ups and downs in the past) and a young daughter. But when he travels to the coastal town of Tippins (off the Chesapeake in Virginia) to assist his ailing father, his life comes to a halt when his 7-year-old daughter Rachel disappears. His wife and the local police believe Rachel was swept away by the Chesapeake tide, but David is unwilling to believe that. He becomes obsessed with finding out Rachel’s fate. This obsession threatens to cost him his marriage and his profession. It also forces him to face his past and his lifelong guilt over the death of his sister.
As his marriage to his wife Joanne disintegrates, David moves to Tippins to conduct his own investigation into Rachel’s disappearance. This leads him to work at a correctional facility — where he comes face to face with the man who he believes has abducted his daughter. Can David forgive the abductor? Can he forgive himself? Can he repair his marriage?
I got this book as part of LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program, and I am sad to say that this book was not one of favorites. Perhaps part of the problem was that I had read a similarly themed book earlier this year (Efrem Sigel’s The Disappearance) and, unfortunately, this book suffered by comparison. One of my biggest problems was that I just did not like or believe in David or Joanne’s reactions when Rachel disappears. David immediately starts conducting his own half-cocked investigation driven by revenge, and Joanne doesn’t want to admit that perhaps Rachel might be alive. To me, they were both unsympathetic and I just didn’t get enough of a feeling of grief from them over the loss of their daughter. In a way, it felt like Rachel’s disappearance was more of a plot twist to keep the story moving than the focus of the book.
The fact that this is a Christian fiction book might have something to do with this as the primary theme of the book is forgiveness. Can David forgive the man who he thinks killed his daughter? Can David forgive himself for the role he played in his sister’s death years ago? Can Joanne and David forgive each other and find love again? Although there is nothing wrong with this theme and I understand why it might be the focus of the book, I just think the story itself is sloppily executed. To me, many of the story threads seem designed to accomplish certain goals or agendas of the author rather than contribute to the overall story.
The book is stuffed full of subplots — the reappearance of Joanne’s former fiance, Rachel’s true parentage, the racial targeting of David’s Muslim neighbors in Tippins, David’s lust for his neighbor, the ill will between the Conners and Joanne’s family (a senator and his scheming, politically driven wife). In addition, the book flashes back to the past — to David’s childhood, his mother’s battle with breast cancer, his courtship with Joanne, and Rachel’s birth. In many of these plots, I felt very unsympathetic to David. He comes off as a bit of an ass, to tell you the truth. Plus many of the subplots just felt plain unbelievable to me — such as when David takes a job at the correctional facility where the inmate he believes killed his daughter is being held. It just seemed to me this would not be allowed to happen in this day and age. Yet he waltzes right in there and immediately starts getting involved with the inmate.
On the plus side, the books moves along at a good clip. There is always something going on and some new “fly in the ointment.” It certainly wasn’t boring, but it did feel a bit overstuffed for my tastes. It also makes you think about the topic of forgiveness. Could you forgive someone who killed your child? Could you forgive yourself for playing a role in a loved one’s death? These questions are the central focus of the book, and you can’t help but think about them.
My Final Recommendation
I wasn’t a big fan of this book — mostly because I felt it was overstuffed with plotting and didn’t have enough sympathetic characters. In addition, I felt most of the characters were one-dimensional. However, I’m not a big fan of James Patterson’s books either, and plenty of people love his stuff. I would say I have the same problem with Patterson’s books (too much plotting, not enough character development)! So although this book was not my cup of tea, it might be yours. If the story I described appeals to you, then this might be a good fit for you.
Also, after I wrote my review, I looked at some other reviews written on LibraryThing and discovered I am in the minority in feeling this way about the book. There are quite a few positive reviews, and, in the interest of fairness, you can check them out here.
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