"One day, God willing, my son will understand. He'll have children of his own and then he'll understand. There's nothing a father won't do for his children."
Pete and Elaine Dizinoff have been friends with Joe and Iris Stern since college, living near each other in suburban New Jersey, vacationing together, and raising each other's children as their own. That is, until the Sterns' oldest child, Laura, commits a horrific act as a teenager that will haunt Pete for years.
As the families struggle to move forward in the aftermath, Pete focuses his energy on his only child, Alec, trying to ensure his future as a successful, responsible adult, despite twists and turns along the way.
When Laura comes back after a decade-long absence, she sets her sights on Alec, ten years her junior, who has returned home after dropping out of college. Pete, still intent on keeping Alec on course, sees the life he imagined for his son slipping out of his grasp as the relationship between the two moves forward.
Early on, the author presents questions that propel the reader to the novel's dramatic end for the answers. Why is Pete now living in the studio above his basement, estranged from his family? Why is he potentially being sued for medical malpractice? It's these two critical issues that provide the novel's momentum.
The novel is told exclusively from Pete's point of view, so we don't get the other characters' perspectives on all the events, but the singular focus is effective at driving home Pete's unwavering love for Alec, even as his efforts are resisted.
The book jumps wildly around in time to cover the history leading up to the present circumstances, which can be a bit confusing. Ultimately, though, Grodstein does an impressive job at getting inside the head, and heart, of a father who just wants the very best for his child at any cost.