Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Books I''ve Read: The Gifted Son

Set in Sydney, this multi-POV book tells the story of a family fracturing after a single punch lands the youngest child in hospital with a spinal injury.  

On the last day of high school, Jamie is in good spirits, looking forward to a summer of surfing with his mates.  But a prank gone wrong leads him to the hospital instead, with a spinal injury that means it's unlikely he'll ever walk again.

As Jamie struggles to overcome the pain and come to terms with a very different future than the one he expected for himself, his family strains at the seams, possibly unable to survive the strain this stroke of bad luck has set in motion.

Mother Lillian is fiercely protective of her baby.  She's certain that positive thinking will bring a miracle.  She starts clipping stories out of magazines and newspapers about miracles and manages to convince herself and Jamie that the one common theme all these people have is their goodness.  Soon mother and son are throwing themselves into acts of service, certain they will be the thing to turn the tide and allow Jamie to walk again.

Meanwhile, Lillian's husband John is struggling with the failure of his business.  Things have been bad for months and he hasn't been drawing a salary for some time.  As time stretches out and he still hasn't told Lillian the truth about their finances, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell her.  The only glimmer of hope comes from a temp receptionist who seems to know a lot more about websites and design than someone in her position should.

And then there's Jamie's older sister, Kate, a driven businesswoman whose focus on her career has left little time for her to spend with Jamie.  After the accident she's wracked with guilt over this and throws herself at figuring out exactly what happened, who really was behind the punch that injured her baby brother.  She's sure Jamie's best friend Jez is lying, but she can't figure out why.

And then there's Jez, tortured by the truth he knows but can't speak up about after lying to the police about what actually happened that day.

I enjoyed this one to a point even though I found the family incredibly frustrating to spend time with.  So many of the problems they faced could have been solved if they just spoke to each other more honestly.  Or even at all.  I know an event like this is traumatic and just compounds existing stresses, but John really should have shared the financial difficulties with his wife.  If she'd known, she would not have been spending with such abandon, as if by throwing money at causes she could buy a cure for Jamie.

And Jamie never really came alive for me.  He didn't have much personality on the page, so it was difficult to care too much about him.  Considering he was supposed to eb the focus of the book, he never felt like a real human being in the same way his parents or even Jez did.

So I wouldn't wholeheartedly recommend this one.  It's an easy read, and certainly not a terrible book.  It's just not quite as enjoyable as I'd hoped it might be.

But don;t just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:

A Sydney family's picture-perfect life is upended in an unputdownable new novel from the bestselling author of The Mothers.

What if the worst day of your life is the making of you?

With two bright children, a beautiful home and a husband she's always depended on, Lillian Hogarth considers herself blessed. Until, on her son Jamie's final day of high school, he fails to come home. Hospitalised by a coward's punch, Jamie has been the victim of a muck-up day celebration that went too far.

Lillian's support is unflinching, even as her world begins to crumble. A son whose fate hangs in the balance, a teenage witness who refuses to name the one who threw the punch, and a husband who's hiding a secret that could destroy their marriage . . .

Is this the end of the Hogarth family's good luck? Or will Jamie's determination-and Lillian's love-be the making of them?


  1. It was sounding great until I read your thoughts on Jamie. Then I went, "Oh. Hmmm." I still want to know the truth about that day, though, so maybe that'll get me to read it after all.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. There are a lot of books with the Poor Communication Kills trope, and it's frustrating. It's one of those things that has to be justified by the characterization at the very least, and sometimes the author fails to do that.