The Good Father

( 23 )

Overview

An intense, psychological novel about one doctor's suspense-filled quest to unlock the mind of a suspected political assassin: his twenty-year old son.
 
As the Chief of Rheumatology at Columbia Presbyterian, Dr. Paul Allen's specialty is diagnosing patients with conflicting symptoms, patients other doctors have given up on. He lives a contented life in Westport with his second wife and their twin sons—hard won after a failed marriage ...
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The Good Father

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Overview

An intense, psychological novel about one doctor's suspense-filled quest to unlock the mind of a suspected political assassin: his twenty-year old son.
 
As the Chief of Rheumatology at Columbia Presbyterian, Dr. Paul Allen's specialty is diagnosing patients with conflicting symptoms, patients other doctors have given up on. He lives a contented life in Westport with his second wife and their twin sons—hard won after a failed marriage earlier in his career that produced a son named Daniel. In the harrowing opening scene of this provocative and affecting novel, Dr. Allen is home with his family when a televised news report announces that the Democratic candidate for president has been shot at a rally, and Daniel is caught on video as the assassin. 
    
Daniel Allen has always been a good kid—a decent student, popular—but, as a child of divorce, used to shuttling back and forth between parents, he is also something of a drifter. Which may be why, at the age of nineteen, he quietly drops out of Vassar and begins an aimless journey across the United States, during which he sheds his former skin and eventually even changes his name to Carter Allen Cash.
    
Told alternately from the point of view of the guilt-ridden, determined father and his meandering, ruminative son, The Good Father is a powerfully emotional page-turner that keeps one guessing until the very end. This is an absorbing and honest novel about the responsibilities—and limitations—of being a parent and our capacity to provide our children with unconditional love in the face of an unthinkable situation.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for THE GOOD FATHER:

“The father of a man who assassinates a presidential candidate tries to make sense of his son’s crime in Hawley’s gripping new novel…With great skill, Hawley renders Dr. Allen’s treacherous emotional geography, from his shock and guilt to his growing sense that he knows far less about his son than he thought…Hawley’s complicated protagonist is a fully fathomed and beautifully realized character whose emotional growth never slows a narrative that races toward a satisfying and touching conclusion.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

The Good Father is hypnotic and haunting and I lost all track of time when I was reading it. Suddenly the day had become night and still I was engrossed in one father’s poignant story and Noah Hawley’s mesmeric tales of a long litany of assassins.”
—Chris Bohjalian, author of The Night Strangers, The Double Bind, and Secrets of Eden
 
 “Brilliant and heartbreaking, The Good Father is a thriller, a mystery and above all else a savagely contemporary, hugely important story about the relationship between a father and the boy he left behind in his first, failed marriage. This is a rare and important book, and it will haunt the reader for a long time. It is impossible to read the final pages without weeping, and hard to read any of it without taking a long hard look at your own life, and the damage we do when we dare to love, or let love slip away.”
—Tony Parsons, author of Man and Boy
 
 "This book pulls off something close to impossible.  It's both a thriller and a moving, literary novel.  A tender father/son story I couldn't put down, a page-turner with depth."
— Stephen Elliott, author of The Adderall Diaries

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307947918
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/8/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 614,905
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 7.86 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

NOAH HAWLEY is an author, screenwriter, and producer. He has published three previous novels, conceived and run two network television shows, and written one feature film. Before creating his own shows, he was a writer and producer for the hit show Bones on FOX. He currently splits his time between Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, where he lives with his wife and daughter.
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Read an Excerpt

The Good Father

A Novel
By Noah Hawley

Doubleday

Copyright © 2012 Noah Hawley
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780385535533

One

Home

Thursday night was pizza night in the Allen household. My last appointment of the day was scheduled for eleven a.m., and at three o'clock I would ride the train home to Westport, thumbing through patient charts and returning phone calls. I liked to watch the city recede, the brick buildings of the Bronx falling away on the side of the tracks. Trees sprang up slowly, sunlight bursting forth in triumph, like cheers at the end of a long, oppressive regime. The canyon became a valley. The valley became a field. Riding the train I felt myself expand, as if I had escaped a fate I thought inevitable. It was odd to me, having grown up in New York City, a child of concrete and asphalt. But over the decades I had found the right angles and constant siren blare to be crushing. So ten years earlier I had moved my family to Westport, Connecticut, where we became a suburban family with suburban family hopes and dreams.

I was a rheumatologist--the chief of rheumatology at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. It was a specialty that most people didn't recognize, concerned they'd guess with the watery eyes and phlegmy cough of a bad pollen allergy. But in truth, rheumatology is a subspecialty of internal medicine and pediatrics. The term "rheumatology" originates from the Greek word rheuma, meaning "that which flows as a river or stream" and the suffix -ology, meaning "the study of." Rheumatologists mainly deal with clinical problems involving joints, soft tissues, and allied conditions of connective tissues. We are often the doctor of last resort when patients develop mysterious symptoms involving most of the body's systems: nervous, respiratory, circulatory. The rheumatologist is called to consult when a diagnosis remains elusive.

I was a diagnostician by trade, a medical detective, analyzing symptoms and test results, looking for the most pernicious diseases and intangible traumas. After eighteen years I still found the work fascinating and often took it to bed with me, mulling patient histories in the slippery moments before sleep, looking for patterns in the grain.

June 16 was a sunny day, not too hot but with the threat of New York summer in the air. You could smell the first wisp of humidity rising off the macadam. Soon any breeze would feel like the hot breath of a stranger. Soon you would be able to reach up and smudge car exhaust across the sky like oil paint. But for now there was just the threat, a slight smother, a trickle in the armpits.

I was late getting home that night. Afternoon rounds had taken longer than expected, and I didn't step off the train until close to six. I walked the nine blocks to our house through rows of manicured lawns. American flags hung from mailboxes. White picket fences, at once welcoming and prohibitive, ran beside me like the sprockets of a bicycle wheel, half seen from the corner of my eye. A sense of motion, of one thing being ticked off, then another. It was a town of affluence, and I was one of its citizens, a medical expert, a lecturing professor at Columbia.

I had become an MD in the era before the HMO, before the nickel-and-diming of doctors, and I had done well for myself. The money afforded certain freedoms and luxuries. A four-bedroom house, a few acres of hilly land with a weeping willow and a faded white hammock that swung lazily in the breeze. On these early evenings when the weather was warm I walked through the suburban quiet with a sense of peace, a feeling of accomplishment, not smug or petty but deep-seated and human. It was the triumph of a marathoner after a race, the jubilation of a soldier after a long war is over. A challenge had been faced and overcome, and you were better, wiser for the facing.

Fran was already working the dough when I walked in the door, rolling it out against the marble countertop. The twins were grating cheese and scattering toppings. Fran was my second wife, a tall redhead, with the slow curves of a lazy river. Turning forty had changed the quality of her beauty from the athletic glow of a volleyball player to a languid voluptuousness. Contemplative and sure-footed, Fran was a woman who thought things through, who took a long-term approach to problems. These were not qualities my first wife shared, prone as she was to impulse and the full roller coaster of emotion. But I like to think that one of my better qualities is that I learn from my mistakes. And that, when I asked Fran to marry me, it was because we were--for lack of a more romantic word--compatible in the truest sense of the word.

Fran was a virtual assistant, which meant she worked from home, helping people she'd never met schedule appointments and make flight reservations. Instead of earrings, Fran wore a Bluetooth earpiece, which she put in when she awoke and didn't remove until just before bed. This meant she spent large portions of every day conducting what appeared to be a long conversation with herself.

The twins, Alex and Wally, were ten that year. They were fraternal and not in any way similar. Wally had a harelip and a slight air of menace about him, like a boy who is just waiting for you to turn your back. In truth, he was the sweeter of the two, the more innocent. A miscoded gene had given him a cleft palate, and though surgery had mostly corrected it, there was still a quality to his face that seemed off-kilter, imprecise, vulnerable. His twin, Alex, fair-haired, comparatively angelic looking, had gotten into some trouble recently for fighting. It was a familiar problem for him, starting in the sandbox era as a willingness to battle anyone who made fun of his brother. But over the years, that instinct to protect had evolved into an irresistible need to champion the underdog--fat kids, nerds, kids with braces. A few months back--after being called to the principal's office for the third time that semester--Fran and I took Alex to lunch and explained to him that while we approved of his instinct to protect the meek, he would have to find less physical ways to do so.

"If you want these bullies to learn a lesson," I said, "you have to teach them something. And I guarantee, violence never taught anybody anything."

Alex had always had a quick wit and a sharp tongue. I suggested he sign up for debate classes, where he could learn to beat his opponents with words.

He shrugged, but I could tell he liked the idea. And over the next few months, Alex became the top debater in his class. Now he turned every request to eat his vegetables or help with the chores into an Aristotelian voir dire.

I had no one to blame but myself.

This was our nuclear family. A father, a mother, and two sons. Daniel, the son from my first marriage, had lived with us for a year during his sullen teens, but had departed as impulsively as he'd arrived, waking me one morning before dawn to ask if I could drive him to the airport. His mother and I had split when he was seven, and he had stayed with her on the West Coast when I had come east.

Three years after his brief stay with us, Danny, eighteen, had started college. But he dropped out after less than a year, climbing into his car and heading west. Later, he would say that he just wanted to "see the country." He didn't tell us he'd left. Instead, I sent a card to his dorm, and it came back unopened, with a stamp occupant no longer at this address. This had been his way since childhood. Danny was a boy who never stayed where you left him, who popped up in unexpected places at unexpected times. Now he called infrequently; sent e-mails from Internet cafes in the flat states of the Midwest. The occasional postcard scrawled in a moment of summer nostalgia. But always at his convenience, not mine.

The last time I saw him was in Arizona. I'd flown in for a medical conference. Daniel was passing through on his way north. I bought him breakfast in a hipster coffee shop near my hotel. His hair was long and he ate his pancakes without pause, his fork moving from plate to mouth like a steam shovel.

He told me he'd been doing a lot of camping in the Southwest. During the day he hiked. At night he read by flashlight. He seemed happy. When you're young there is no more romantic conceit than freedom--the boundless certainty that you can go anywhere, do anything. And though it still bothered me that he had dropped out of college six months earlier, knowing him as I did, I can't say I was surprised.

Daniel had grown up traveling. He was a teenage gypsy, shuttled between Connecticut and California, living partly with me and partly with his mother. Children of joint custody are, by nature of the divorce settlement, independent. All those Christmases spent in airports, all those summer vacations shuffling back and forth between mom and dad. Unaccompanied minors, crisscrossing the nation. Daniel seemed to survive it without major trauma, but I still worried, the way any parent does. Not enough to keep me up at night, but enough to add a layer of doubt to each day, a nagging sense of loss, like something important had been misplaced. And yet he had always been self-sufficient, and he was a smart, likable kid, so I convinced myself that wherever he went, he was fine.

Last fall, sitting across from each other in that Arizona coffee shop, Daniel teased me about my coat and tie. It was Saturday, and he said he didn't see the point.

"It's a medical conference," I told him. "I have a professional reputation to uphold."

He laughed at the thought of it. To him all these grown men and women acting and dressing in a manner that society deemed "professional" was ridiculous.

When we parted I tried to give him five hundred dollars, but he wouldn't take it. He said he was doing good, working odd jobs here and there. He said it would feel strange carrying that much money around with him.

"It'd throw off the balance, you know?"

The hug he gave me when we parted was full-bodied and long. His hair smelled unwashed, the sweet musk of the hobo. I asked him if he was sure about the money. He just smiled. I watched him walk away with a deep feeling of impotence. He was my son and I had lost control of him, if I'd ever really had it. I was a bystander now, an observer, watching his life from the sidelines.

When he reached the corner, Daniel turned and waved. I waved back. Then he stepped into the street and I lost him in the crowd. I hadn't seen him since.

Now, in the kitchen of our Connecticut home, Fran came over and kissed me on the mouth. Her hands were covered in flour and she held them up the way I had held mine up a few hours ago walking into the ICU.

"Alex got in another fight," she said.

"It wasn't a fight," Alex corrected her. "A fight is where you hit someone and they hit back. This was more like a mugging."

"Mr. Smart Ass has been suspended for three days," she told me.

"I plan on being furious," I told them. "After I have a drink." I took a beer from the fridge. Fran had returned to the pizza stone.

"We figured pepperoni and mushroom tonight," she said.

"Far be it from me," I told her.

Apropos of nothing Fran said, "Yes, the seven-fifteen flight to Tucson."

Tucson? Then I noticed the blue light.

"Yes, he'll need a car."

I started to speak, but she held up a finger.

"That sounds great. Will you e-mail me the itinerary? Thank you." The blue light went off. The finger came down.

"What can I do?" I said.

"Set the table. And I'll need you to take it out in ten minutes. That oven still scares me."

The TV was on in the corner, playing Jeopardy! It was another ritual in our house, this watching of game shows. Fran thought it was good for the kids to compete with contestants on TV. I had never understood why. But every night around seven our house became a cacophony of barked non sequiturs.

"James Garfield," said Wally.

"Madison," corrected Fran.

"In the form of a question," said Alex.

"Who is James Garfield?" said Wally.

"Madison," said Fran.

"Who is James Madison?"

I had gotten used to the nightly confusion, looked forward to it. Families are defined by their routines. The pickups and drop-offs. The soccer games and debate clubs, doctors' appointments and field trips. Every night you eat and clean. You check to make sure homework is done. You turn off the lights and lock the doors. On Thursdays you drag the Toters to the curb. Friday mornings you bring them in. After a few years, even the arguments are the same, as if you are living out the same day over and over. There is comfort in this, even as it drives you mad. As a virtual assistant, Fran was militant about order. We were her family, but also her ground force. She sent us e-mails and text messages almost hourly, updating calendar events in real time. The dentist appointment has been rescheduled. Glee club has been replaced by ice-skating. Armies are less regimented. Twice a week in the Allen household we synchronized our watches like a special-ops team tasked with blowing up a bridge. The occasional annoyance this raised in me was tempered by love. To have married once and failed is to realize who you are in some deep and unromanticized way. The veneer of personal embarrassment about your weaknesses and idiosyncrasies is lifted, and you are then free to marry the person who best complements the real you, not the idealized version of you that lives in your head.

This is what led me to Fran after eight years of marriage to Ellen Shapiro. Though I had long thought of myself as a spontaneous and open person, I realized after my marriage to Ellen fell apart that I was, in fact, a creature of rigidity and repetition. I cannot stand living with uncertainty and forgetfulness. The bright-eyed, hippie ditziness that seemed charming in Ellen at first glance quickly became infuriating. Similarly, all the qualities that made me a good doctor--my meticulousness, my love of redundancy, the long hours I worked--proved to be qualities that Ellen found oppressive and dull. We took to fighting at every opportunity. It wasn't so much what I did or what she did. It was who we were. And the disappointment we voiced to each other was disappointment in ourselves for making such poor choices. This is the learning process. And though our marriage produced Daniel, it was a union best dissolved before any real damage was done.

Continues...

Excerpted from The Good Father by Noah Hawley Copyright © 2012 by Noah Hawley. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 23 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(9)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2012

    Powerful!

    Dr. Paul Allen is a Chief Rheumatologist , happily married to a second wife, with whom he has young twin sons. Then one day on TV, while he and his family are making pizza, a knock at the door comes and they learn that his son from his first marriage has assassinated the leading contender for the Democratic Presidential candidacy. Then unfolds, from Allen’s perspective, the agony of the questioning parent, examining his life, his marriages, his motives, his desire to attempt to understand why, coupled with his inability to accept that the shooter was his son, or then, that his son was the ‘cause.’ I found this book astonishingly moving in the portrait of one man’s agony that it provided, as if it were non-fiction. Portrait, or window, is truly the term for it:
    “I watched him walk away with a deep feeling of impotence. He was my son and I had lost control of him, if I’d ever really had it. I was a bystander now, an observer, watching his life from the sidelines.”
    “There are things in this world that no human being should be able to endure. We should die of heartbreak, but we do not. Instead, we are forced to survive, to bear witness.”

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Not easily forgotten

    Dr. Paul Allen is the chief rheumatologist at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. He spends his working days investigating patients' symptoms to discover their underlying illnesses.

    When his son Daniel is accused of killing a rising political star slated to be the next president of the United States, Allen is unable to believe that Daniel is guilty, and employs the same investigative skills to try to prove Daniel's innocence despite overwhelming evidence.

    Told mostly through the viewpoint of the father, we follow Paul's determined path to love and support his son, the product of his first marriage. His continued inability to accept even the possibility of Daniel's guilt puts incredible strain on his second family, even as his career is disintegrating.


    THE GOOD FATHER is interspersed with flashbacks to other famous or infamous killers, as well as Daniel's journey leading up to the shooting. Coupled with the love and guilt carried by the father, Hawley has written an emotional story that's not easily forgotten. Lynn Kimmerle, Monarch Book Reviews

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2012

    I come and shit all over you

    Explosive dirreha

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A Harrowing Tale The Good Father by Noah Hawley is the haunting

    A Harrowing Tale

    The Good Father by Noah Hawley is the haunting tale of Dr. Paul Allen, a remarried father of young twins, who is struggling to come to grips with a single horrific act perpetrated by, Daniel, his son from his first marriage. After dropping out of college for a soul-searching life on the road, Daniel assumed a new identity and is arrested for assassinating a popular presidential candidate. Mostly narrated by Dr. Allen, there are parts that switch to Daniel’s point-of-view, giving the reader the full 3-D experience.




    Reading this book was a bit of a harrowing experience. What propels the book forward is Dr. Allen’s quest to understand his son’s actions. He is desperate to prove his son’s innocence while also trying to come to terms with what he has done. Was it the divorce that changed his sweet boy into a killer? Was it the cross-country flights between parents? Was it because he had remarried and started a new family? Did he pay his son enough attention? These are the questions Dr. Allen asks himself as the rest of the world vilifies his  son.




    What is difficult about this book is that it personifies the killer. In light of recent events in Aurora, CO; Newtown, CT; and California, this is a difficult pill to swallow and I know that a of of people will likely put off reading The Good Father because of it. But it is a very good book and it should be read because it’s main focus is the father. We oftentimes forget that violence affects the families of the guilty, and this is one of those rare books that delves into that unexplored side of tragedy.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 5, 2012

    Well written

    This book is well written. The Characters are well developed. The Idea behind the book is interesting and original...

    I also found this book dragged at time, and was very depressing. When I finished this book I grabbed a fun book to read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 11, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    For me, this is a exceptionally well-written book about a good f

    For me, this is a exceptionally well-written book about a good father whose son has gone bad. We go along with me as he attempts to deny the son's behavior, to excuse, to dismiss his guilt that he him self did something wrong. Will he lose his new wife, his new family, as he leaves the on his search? Many emotional issues come into play, but I thought they were all handled well. I didn't cry, but I felt for this fictional person who represented all of us in some way who may wonder if we have done someone wrong, or feel guilt for a mistake we might have made, but can never be sure.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2012

    Good book if you want to cry.

    This was a very well-written novel. So well-written, in fact, that you I really formed a connection with the main character by the end of the book. I sobbed at the end, and didn't feel happy for the rest of the night. This book is real. Even though it describes an extraordinary situation and event, it really leaves you sucked of emotion because of some of the very real themes. Life, death, love, aging. You name it. If you're looking for an emotional read, this is it. If you'd rather not cry, stay away.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2012

    Excellent Read

    This was a great book. It is my favorite book of 2012 so far. As the parent of a son, I could feel what this Dad was feeling.

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  • Posted March 30, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Book Review (ARC) Do you know exactly how much I love the idea o

    Book Review (ARC)
    Do you know exactly how much I love the idea of a reputable doctor raising a psychopathic, cold-blooded murderer? The answer is – a lot, and I was really looking forward to reading this book. Unfortunately, the author executed this idea very poorly. Somewhere, within all the superfluous facts and details, there is an excellent story to be told, but this novel just seemed like a mess of loosely related thoughts – like ordering a pizza and the waiter telling you how cheese is made. I just wasn’t a fan of The Good Father. The story had its moments and the writing was fine, but I didn’t care about 70% of the content.

    The main character, Paul Allen, is also quite annoying. At first, he’s likable and obviously concerned with proving his son’s innocence, but then he goes all Jason Bourne on you and starts analyzing a ton of other assassinations that really don’t need to be mentioned at all. It didn’t create suspense; it literally made me want to skip huge chunks of the book because I simply didn’t care about being force-fed a history lesson.

    My opinion: skip this book.

    Reviewed by Brittany for Book Sake.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 27, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Doctor Paul Allen’s specialty is diagnosing patients with

    Doctor Paul Allen’s specialty is diagnosing patients with conflicting symptoms, patients other doctors have given up on. He is married, with two sons and has a son Daniel from a previous marriage. Things are going well in his life both at home and professionally. He doesn’t see Daniel as much as he would like, but Daniel is an adult, has always been a good kid and a decent student, but he is easily distracted, something inherited from his mother. He recently dropped out of college and it traveling around the states. Paul is worried about him but knows that Daniel will check in with him if he needs anything.

    Home relaxing with his family he is shocked when a televised news report announces that the Democratic candidate for president has been shot at a rally, and Daniel is caught on video as the assassin. There has to be a mistake, that can’t be Daniel.

    Dollycas’s Thoughts
    The book chronicles Paul’s journey to find the answers he needs to come to grips with what everyone is convinced his child has done. He researches other well known killers like John Hinkley and Sirhan Sirhan to try to get inside their heads and compare them to his son. Why did they do what they did? Could his son have been brainwashed or had a mental breakdown? He knows he wasn’t the best father but he was a “good father”. What did he do wrong to raise a son like Daniel? Did his son actually assassinate a man running to become President of the United States?

    This is a very gripping novel. It uses several real events to ground the story in reality. As a parent you understand the unconditional love that you feel for your children and understand Paul’s need to find the truth. His job is to explain the unexplainable and this drives him throughout the story.

    The author really had me with him in most places throughout the story but lost me at a couple of illogical turns. At times the writing felt forced but the subject matter was compelling enough to keep the story moving forward. A little more editing would have made this a great read. It is a very good read that I do recommend.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2012

    Poor historical background info

    I am having real difficulty with this book...continued references to the Loughner shooting in Tucson erroneously identify the incident as happening in Phoenix. As someone who was very much affected by this shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, I find this misinformation distressing. anybody know if it is ever corrected late in the book?

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2013

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