Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Good Father

The Good Father
Diane Chamberlain
Published by Harlequin MIRA
368 pages
Available on
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.
3.5 / 5 cupcakes

The Good Father is as much the story of what one man would do for his daughter as what two mothers would do for theirs. It is also the story of how one little girl can heal three broken people.

Travis Brown is twenty-two, an age when most people are fresh out of college, bursting with the promise of what they will do next and believing that the world is their oyster. But for Travis, the world seems more like a dark, gaping wound. His high school love, Robin, had a life-threatening heart ailment, worsened by an unexpected pregnancy. Her father took advantage of her ill health to force a breakup between her and Travis, but when Travis found out about the baby, he refused to cede custody. He and the baby, a little girl named Bella, lived with his mother in Wilmington, NC, where Travis, who once dreamt of being a marine biologist, struggled to find construction jobs. But then his mother's house burns down, and Travis and Bella find themselves homeless.

Meanwhile, Robin, who believes Travis is married, tries to forget about Bella. She is engaged to Dale, a mayoral candidate in Beaufort, working at his family's bed and breakfast. Dale's sister also finds herself unexpectedly with child while as a teenager, and experiencing her future niece's birth forces Robin to remember Bella ... and wonder about Travis.

Then there is Erin, a thirty-something pharmacist from Raleigh. Erin recently moved into a small apartment, away from her husband, Michael, and their fractured marriage. Erin and Michael lost their daughter ten months earlier in a freak accident, and each mourns in a different way. Erin cannot understand Michael's grief, and he cannot understand hers.

Erin and Travis meet at a coffee shop when Travis comes to Raleigh for a potential job. Erin finds herself drawn to Bella, who is close to the age of Erin's daughter.

I breathed in the musty smell of her hair again. I couldn't pull the scent of her deeply enough into my lungs. Beneath my hands, I felt her ribs and the little knobs of her spine. She was tiny for four. Tiny and way too thin. Carolyn at three had been bigger than Bella at four. I rested my chin on the top of her head and opened the only book she seemed to own, and while I read to her, I thought of all the books and toys in Carolyn's room. I could go to the house and get some of them for her. If I could make myself go into Carolyn's room. 

Unfortunately, Travis's job prospect turns out to be both less and more than he expected, and he needs Erin's help. As Robin discovers that her in-laws have secrets of their own, Travis desperately tries to take care of his daughter, and Erin struggles to not succumb to her grief.

This is a gripping story, told from the points of view of Travis, Robin and Erin. We feel Travis's hopelessness and despair. We sympathize with Erin's disconsolate loss. We cheer for Robin, who has survived so much in her life and yet has so many more challenges to come. And Bella. Oh, Bella. We understand Erin's need to clutch her tight and protect her. We need the three grown-ups to persevere because we need Bella to be safe, loved, cherished.

The only problem with this otherwise very well written book is its predictability. We know Travis's job is not what he expects. We know that Dale and his family are not as perfect as they appear. At no point, will you be surprised by any of the events of this book.

Fortunately, though, the characters will keep you turning the page. And the characters are the reason why this book is as good as it is.

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