This fine novel highlights two old men who are suffering because they both made the same huge mistake. It is an error that many, if not all, of us of a certain age have made the failure to see that our spouses and children are unique individuals with their own talents, preferences and wishes and not merely appendages of us. The men's attitudes are understandable.
The novel's setting is World War I and directly after a time when men were the sole breadwinners, and family members often had to put aside their own wishes and needs to go where the job was. Although that situation is part of this story of both men, there's still a vast amount of self interest involved. Both feel that what they did was right but the lines of those decisions blur as the years pass.
Lamar Clayton is a man who is still coming to grips with the death of his son, Ben his only child, who died in a foolhardy attempt to clean out a machine gun nest on a French battlefield. Sadly, Lamar and Ben had not parted amicably.
Gil Gilheaney is the sculptor Lamar hires to create a statue to honor Ben. Gil's masterpiece had recently been destroyed by a mob, and the still-devastated Gil and his daughter, Maureen, travel to Texas to meet Lamar and to find out as much as they can about Ben Clayton.
In the process of that search, secrets are revealed. Some of which should have never come to light; while others change lives and bring peace. There is the unexplainable relationship between Lamar and his sister. Both were captured by Comanches as children and, although Lamar was ransomed, his sister, Jewell, was not, and she became an Indian in everything but birth. Still, why is there such a great antagonism?
Then there is Gil's explanation to Maureen of his mother's death. It is a string of lies, but why is it necessary? Why are there all these secrets?
The search for the quintessence of Ben Clayton causes the men to face their pasts and the selfish choices they made which then shaped their futures and the futures of their children. What we learn is that sometimes when we think we are making choices, we are really reacting to choices others made long ago.
To learn more about this and other books, visit the Boulder City Library at 701 Adams Boulevard, 293-1281, www.bouldercitylibrary.org