Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sequel a letdown

As a fan of “The Deep End of the Ocean,” Jacquelyn Mitchard’s engrossing tale of a family’s struggle to cope in the aftermath of a kidnapping, I was eager to dive into her sequel, “No Time to Wave Goodbye.”

Ocean was so much more than a crime novel.

In fact the crime was merely the catalyst for a look at the ways grief and guilt change people. The very different ways Beth and Pat and Vincent coped with the disappearance of their son and brother captivated. Did they blame each other? Themselves? What did it mean if they gave up hope? Was it wrong to enjoy life again?

And when their every wish is granted, why is life not perfect?

So in Goodbye, which picks up the family’s story 13 years after their son is returned to them, I expected a look at just how far-reaching the ripples of that event had been.

What I got was a routine whodunit.

Its pieces fit together a bit too perfectly for a truly memorable one.

Spoiler alert! Stop reading here … much of the plot is given away….

Beth remembers Patricia Fellows instantly from decades earlier; but Vincent cannot recall the phrase ad hoc ergo propter hoc from an interview months before.

Claire reads one article and instantly suspects her husband of a heinous crime.

Sam/Ben says to his brother, “…the morning she was born, I felt like I was going to explode. Like go up in the air in a hot-air balloon. I felt like nobody ever felt like I did, like you could die from loving a person. I wanted to get on my knees,” and we’re supposed to believe that those feelings did not evoke any understanding of how his parents felt about his refusal to call them mom and dad.

Perhaps if my expectations hadn’t been raised so high by Ocean, I wouldn’t have felt so let down by Goodbye.

- Tricia Ambrose

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