Review: Favorite Son by Will Freshwater
Publish Date: Out Now
Reviewed by: Heller
How I got this book: Copy from Author
“Born into a blue-collar family, John Wells beat the odds and came out a winner. As chief of staff to Patrick Donovan, a US senator and aspiring presidential candidate, he enjoys all the power and privilege of a DC insider. But while riding high on a wave of success, he’s blindsided by a series of betrayals from the people he trusts the most. In the space of a single day, John’s perfect life unexpectedly unravels when his career falters and his marriage implodes. Following a final, devastating blow, John assumes a new identity as “Peter” and flees to Provincetown, where a tight-knit community of eclectic characters slowly transforms him.Peter finds himself drawn to Danny Cavanaugh, an enigmatic carpenter who is struggling to come to terms with his own troubled past. As they work together to renovate a local landmark, the two men forge an unlikely friendship that blossoms into love and becomes the foundation for a new life they hope to build together. But when a reversal of fortune pulls John back to DC, the treacherous world of politics he thought he’d left behind threatens to destroy his chance at true happiness.”
I found this story to have an intriguing dreamlike quality to the telling as John moved from location to location and switched personas along his journey. It interested me in seeing how his sense of self was affected by his environment.
I felt his pain at the destruction of his relationship with David. I’m conflicted about Melody in the story though. John did, in many ways, replace David with Melody. Looking to her for support and sharing his work life with her, essentially pushing David out of his life. I don’t blame David for his choices. I can also understand Melody’s feelings for John but the whole situation just turned so ugly in the end.
It’s unfortunate that John’s workaholic tendencies lead to the implosion of his personal life. I can appreciate and completely understand how work takes over a person’s life. Be it validation or the sense of accomplishment it becomes a sort of drug that’s easily addicted to and hard to shake free. I did find that John got a few undeserved passes on his actions and that the other people in his life were very willing to blame David when a lot of the responsibility was firmly on John’s shoulders. I’m surprised that the men lasted as long as they did, that may have had something to do with stubbornness and pride on both their parts. The scenes between him and John were uncomfortable but at the same time there was an underlay of anger and bitterness. A great dynamic there if a sad one.
The behind the curtain Capital Hill scenes were fascinating, a bit like watching an episode of the West Wing. I found myself being angry on John’s behalf as he struggled for respect in such a close knit community. It was frustrating that he was essentially invisible to the old boy network and I admit to being as shocked as John during his lunch with the Senator. To have worked so hard and then be dropped because your personal life was a low blow.
For all the wheeling and dealing in DC after finishing the read I want to go to Boston. There’s a real love of the city here that translates beautifully and makes me want to explore the places described. It was fascinating that in order for John to find himself again he needed to do it as Peter.
This quote was really telling: “Well, today is my very first day here,” Peter heard himself say. “So, I guess this is where my story begins.”
I liked the secondary characters that were introduced in Provincetown but I was at times confused by Danny and his mixed signals. He definitely had his own issues that he needed to work through and while I did enjoy the romance between the men I think I needed to be in Danny’s head to really understand the choices that he was making. I had some issues with how he played John and while I did come to understand his reasons for doing so I found it frustrating.
This was for me a story about balance. What happens when you lose it and the journey to regain it. That’s true of a few characters in the book. A lot of them are faced with choices and we see a real spectrum of how these different people deal with their problems. Some choose not to deal, some to ignore and some to avoid. To say that I was surprised when John began seeing a therapist is an understatement. I’ve never read a book where a character actively admits he or she needs help from a licensed therapist and seeks it out. I liked that John took the time to find his center and his balance and in helping Danny essentially find his own balance he helped himself. This was definitely a slow burn but I liked how things ended up. It’s not really the end though more like the beginning.
This isn’t a pretty read at times, the characters are flawed but all the more real for being so. I enjoyed the struggles and the payoff. I’m kind of hoping to see a story down the road about David, I think he deserves some happiness.
I’m giving Favorite Son a B+