When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde
|When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Zoe Morris|
|Summary: Set over a period of forty years, and told from the perspectives of two very different men, this is a stunning piece of fiction that explores family ties that go far beyond a pure genetic relationship. Fans of Jodi Picoult will enjoy this well-crafted story that is impossible to put down.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 512||Date: September 2009|
|Publisher: Black Swan|
Lost and insecure, you found me, you found me...
It's 1960, and on the morning when Nathan McCann sets off on a pre-dawn duck hunting trip, he hasn't the faintest inkling that the day will turn out to be anything other than ordinary. He just wants to enjoy being out in the crisp autumn air with Sadie, his loyal retriever, and maybe bring home a few birds for dinner. But this is no normal day, and before he even gets to the lake, Nathan's life changes forever with the discovery of a newborn baby, barely alive having been abandoned in the woods. A few days later as he reluctantly relinquishes control of the boy to its maternal grandmother, he asks the woman to promise him one thing: that at some point in the future, when she feels the time is right, she will facilitate a meeting between the two, finder and the found. Time passes and life moves on, but years later the two do cross paths again, with rather unexpected consequences.
Unfamiliar with this author, from reading the back of the book my mind immediately took me to the Jodi Picoult school of writing. I was expecting an absorbing, fluid story with nice plot development and just the right amount of suspense and intrigue, and that's exactly what I got in this brilliant book. Told from the points of view of big Nathan and small Nathan (Nat), for the child is named after the man who found him that fateful day and saved his life in the process, this book takes us through all the defining moments of their subsequent lives over the next forty years. Nathan and Nat are completely different men. The first is a rather reserved and straight laced bookkeeper who thinks before he speaks, the second is impulsive, rebellious, and a fighter in more than one area of his life. Nathan had no say in Nat's early upbringing but as their relationship gradually moves into one of surrogate father and surrogate son, the characters begin to change subtly, perhaps showing that nurture can over-ride nature, even after so many years.
This is one of those wonderful books that makes even lesser known arenas accessible and interesting. At one point, Nat begins working out with a view to becoming a pro boxer, but the descriptions of this that follow read like boxing clearly written by a non-boxer: we are not overloaded with jargon or boring details, but rather an overall view that focuses more on the emotions involved than the skills and moves of the sport.
Something I found slightly odd about the book was its real lack of focus on the changing social and economic climate of the US between 1960 and the new millennium. Each chapter starts with a date reference that is a day, a month, or many years after the last one, and you really do need this information because from the story itself it's hard to pinpoint an era. Maybe it's because it focuses so much more on the emotional than on the material, so changes in the date aren't as evident or important. The book is written in strict chronological order which helps, but sometimes when I wasn't paying attention I missed a jump into the future and had to go back and check when it became apparent the story had moved on. This isn't a criticism of the book, really, just an observation. It's as if the years pass because the characters have to age and mature, but the world around them stays pretty much the same.
I liked this book a lot. It was an easy read without ever being overly simplified or patronising. The sort you'll read in a day, but think about for much longer. Unusually, the book has a heavy male focus (and an uncommon relationship between its two main characters), with the women fading into the background somewhat, but it is by no means a stereotypically blokey book. It's PG in terms of language, violence and nudity, but ultimately it can be read on so many different levels emotionally. I really cannot fault this book in any way. It is proper, 5 star fiction, and highly recommended.
Thanks go to the publishers for sending us this book.
The Bookbag also recommends the author's earlier work, Love In The Present Tense while Picoult's Change of Heart is a similar type of read, complete with requisite prison spell and overly important birds.
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