Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Reckoning by Howard Owen

Suspense takes a place in my reading life only once or twice a year, so I like to save the space for a well-told story, with interesting characters, and a plot with believable twists and turns. Howard Owen has admirably fulfilled this task with his ninth novel. Seems as though I have some searches at local bookstores and, failing that, on Amazon ahead of me!

Jake James is 16, a cross country star, and seeking his first intimate relationship. He is the grandson of “Wash” James, failed candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia and scion of a wealthy family that owned a famous Virginia ham company. Jake’s father, George, runs the company now, and his past intrudes into the life of Jake and his friends.

The story lives in a backdrop of the Vietnam War and 9/11. George graduates from college one year after I did, so many of the events and characters are strikingly familiar to me. I lived through the national turmoil of the 60s and 70s, and Owen has recaptured those memories for me in amazing detail.

My major problem with the story is a curious episode at the end. Jake befriends a nine-year-old Guatemalan boy, who is the son of his aunt’s housekeeper. The novel is 2-1/2 pages too long to my tastes. I did some checking and some reviewers feel this ties up the novel with Jake becoming a little self-centered and more caring about others. However, I never really saw him as entirely selfish -- he was a typical teenager. I am much more interested in the evolving relationships between Wash and George and then George and Jake. So, I still think this ending was a bit too cute. Aside from that, I found a few sentences and references that gave me pause. Nevertheless, this is a page turner of the first order. 4-1/2 stars.

--Chiron, 2/11/11

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi. I'm Howard Owen. Thanks for the kind words about The Reckoning. One thing: At the end, I wanted Jake to have this scene in Mexico because I saw him starting a new family story, the way his ancestor did when he came from New York to Richmond after the Civil War. I wanted to say something about downward mobility and the need, in many American families, to start over--maybe in another country--in order to achieve what we think of as the American Dream.