Screenwriter Noah Hawley’s latest novel, it must be said, does not join the list of novels and movies about “demon seed” children who cause unspeakable mayhem. Though The Good Father is narrated by a parent, the miscreant here is a grown man when he commits a senseless act of violence. Still, the tale of Daniel Allen, aka Carter Allen Cash, is no less harrowing for that.
Daniel’s father, renowned rheumatologist Dr. Paul Allen, simply refuses to believe that Daniel has murdered an aspiring and inspiring presidential candidate—a cross between Barack Obama and John Edwards. For the longest time, Paul, logical as he is, dismisses the mountain of evidence against his son; the reader can’t blame him but will grow more and more exasperated by his blindness.
The question that haunts this suspenseful novel is why Daniel did what he did. Was it because he worked for the candidate at one point and saw him looking lecherously at some girl’s cleavage? Was it an explosion of pent-up rage over his parents’ divorce? Paul keeps wondering whether he was indeed a good father to Daniel. If he was, how could this have happened? And if not, is he being a good father to his young twins now?
In the background of Hawley’s heartbreaking book, the reader senses the anxiety of a class of people who believed that their lives were predictable and comfortable, only to find those lives suddenly and inexplicably upended. While others endure unemployment, underwater mortgages or catastrophic illness, Paul Allen has a political assassin for a son. You can run, The Good Father tells us, but you can’t hide.