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The Good Son: A Novelby Craig Nova
Synopses & Reviews
North Africa. 1942
My father is a coarse, charming man, a lawyer, and a good one, and when I was flying over the desert and the German pursuit pilot began pouring round after round into my plane (a P-40), I was thinking of how I learned to drive, and how it affected my father. The desert sky was beautiful, the bleached color you sometimes see in blue glass that has rolled up on the beach. There were pillars of smoke here and there and some fires, too, which were made pale by the sun. If I had been shooting down the German, I imagine I would have been just as zealous. I wonder what kind of car he learned to drive, a Mercedes or Dusenberg perhaps: I learned to drive a Buick.
My father's chauffeur was named Wade, and although it took a while, we became friends and went to the movies together. I liked Wade for a number of reasons, not the least of which was a sense of mystery about him. When I was young I was impressed by the knowledge that Wade had been in prison (in Wyoming), but when I got a little older I realized it wasn't the prison that made him mysterious so much as an un-named, but finally discovered regret. He understood regret. After we became friends we started going to the movie theater in a small town near where my father owns a piece of land on the Delaware River (a piece of which land and a house built for my dead brother I now own). The theater was not very large and the seats were shaggy with stuffing and sometimes Wade and I would be the only people there, staring at that screen which had a hole in the upper right hand part. The hole looked like a bat.
Wade was thirty-five when he started to work for my father, and he was a tall, thin man, with a long nose and chin, pale, tea-colored eyes. He favored a dark green sweater worn over an undershirt when he wasn't working. At other times he wore the blue trousers and jacket my father required of him. On weekends, when I was home from school, Wade drove my father and me to that land on the Delaware. Wade was a little nervous, but this was not unusual, considering the man for whom he had to work.
I like to think of the land as it is in the fall, when the leaves are gone and you can see the woods, the fieldstone that projects from the ground like the prows of speedboats, the greenish park-statue color of the lichen. We drove along the Delaware for a while and then turned where the Mongaup River passed under the highway. The ground was scaled with leaves of red and brown. We climbed a road that went through the trees and finally stopped in front of a two story clapboard house that had shutters which were painted black. There was a front porch and an elm tree before it and my father used to like to sit on the front porch and drink a mint julep. There's a new road on the land now, one that's a little straighter and doesn't wash out so easily. My father made it himself with a bulldozer he bought as army surplus. The machine was a bargain and it was still painted green. There are both cow and sheep barns, although there is no silo. The cow barn has been made into a garage with an apartment (where Wade stayed) and another outbuilding has been fixed too so that the housekeeper and her husband had their privacy.
I learned to drive in 1936 and the car was a Buick, a new one. It was black and had comfortable seats covered with a fuzzy material. The Buick had a three-speed transmission with the gearshift on the floor. The st
Chip Mackinnon, a fighter pilot transformed by his experiences and imprisonment during World War II, finds passion and danger in a wildly exotic relationship with Jean Cooper, a beautiful and lonely young girl. Reprint. 25,000 first printing.
“The Good Son is the work of an artist in full command, and those of you entering it for the first time can only be envied.” —From the foreword by Jonathan Yardley
Chip Mackinnon returns from World War II a changed man. After being shot down over the desert and imprisoned by the enemy, the world of privilege to which he belongs seems shallow. But in the shadow of his older brother’s death, the full weight of his father’s expectations falls on Chip. Pop Mackinnon—whose money is new but just as good as anyone else’s—has designs on the upper echelons of society. The polo ponies and expensive education he bought for his son weren’t gifts; they were an investment in the family’s future. Now it’s time for Chip to pay him back by marrying a girl who can finally bring the Mackinnons into society’s inner circle.
A shrewd and cunning man, Pop is used to getting his way—until the arrival of Jean Cooper, that is. This Midwestern beauty awakens Chip’s passions, and the two embark on an affair that threatens to destroy Pop’s social-climbing plans. A battle of wills between father and son ensues, one that tests the boundaries of their relationship and strays into the place where love turns irrevocably to hate.
Originally published in 1982 to wide acclaim, The Good Son remains Craig Nova’s undisputed masterpiece. This classic of contemporary American literature artfully explores the complicated web of emotions that exists between fathers and sons—ambition, jealousy, loyalty, love—in a tale that compels with its simple, searing honesty.
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About the Author
\Craig Nova is the award-winning author of ten novels. He lives in Putney, Vermont.
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