Paul Allen has lost track of his son.
Dr. Allen is a respected rheumatologist, an expert at analyzing a patient's symptoms and pinpointing a diagnosis, who is now divorced and remarried with a second family. His eldest son of the earlier marriage, Danny, spent his youngest years being shuttled from coast to coast between his mom and his dad.
Now Danny has suddenly dropped out of college to embark on a self-exploratory trip around the country.
While the Allens are watching television news one evening they see a film clip in which Danny is being taken away by govenment agents, having just shot the popular democratic candidate for president of the United States.
Thus begins a father's soul-searching journey to save his son, or at least to come to an understanding of what has happened. Allen--and Danny, in flashbacks--review the stories of many other lone gunmen including Lee Harvey Oswald, Sirhan Sirhan and Charles Whitman, the Texas Tower Sniper whose 96 minute rampage changed America.
A nation that was deeply shocked by the apparent randomness of Whitman's shootings in 1966, has in 2012 come to accept this tragic type of killing as a sad but unsurprising aspect of our culture.
Hawley can provide no final answers for these shootings, or for how a beloved child evolves into a monster.
What he does offer is a picture of all the wildcards of parenting, the impossibility of knowing what does and does not scar the psyche of a child, and the life-altering depth of despair that those who love such a killer inherit from their own sense of guilt and the punishing outrage of society.
Editor's Note: This review was writtn by Karen Woods of the Twinsburg Public Library.