For every parent out there who is juggling busy schedules with family life, especially managing kids who are going to college, this book opens up their inner worries with deep insights. As parents, we justify our busy schedules to ourselves in various names like 'deadlines' or 'appraisal time' etc. But ultimately, the choices that we as parents make go a long way in the growth and happiness of our kids. There is no point of hiding behind excuses. Parents have to own up and take responsibility for the choices they made for their kids and how that has impacted the kids.
To come to the book, Sam Hayes 'Someone Else's Son' is a gripping thriller which asks every parent one simple, life-changing question: Do we really know our children? We think we do but we really don't.
The opening chapter itself is gripping. It reads like this:
"Before she knew what was happening, the knife was in and out of his body...It cut through the air, mesmerising them, slowing their lives, condensing everything to the beautiful moments before it started..."
"The vinegar from the chips till stung her lips."
In this gripping story, Carrie Kent is a household name whose daily morning TV show is about people whose real lives have faced some type of serious tragedy and she rocks the boat further by questioning their choices, values and everything else, putting the victims into a real dilemma. She does this with the confidence that most of us have that 'this tragedy will happen to someone else, not me." But tragedy strikes when her own teenage son Max is stabbed in college by a gang of boys and he dies. Carrie Kent falls apart, wondering what she had done wrong, what her son had done wrong to deserve such a cruel end to his young life and it throws up the dynamics of their turbulent relationship as parent and child.
Topping it all is the fact that Carrie and Brody, her husband, a famous mathematician, are separated and living extremely opposite lives, in which Max remains at the corner of the edges, wondering desperately why his life was so messed up and empty.
Carrie goes in search of the only eyewitness to her son's death - Dayna, a girl who was as much a social outcast in college as her son was. It is then Carrie gets to know that Dayna was also her son's girlfriend. It strikes her that her son had kept it as a secret from her. It hurts her that while she was prying into other people's lives on reality show, her own son's life had been a mystery to her.
But Dayna is in a state of shock and Carrie wants to get her to talk. It isn't easy for Carrie, knowing that Dayna knows more about her son than she herself did. The two women realize that each knows Max differently and now wants to know Max through the other's eyes. As Carrie digs out the past, she understands one thing: her son had been unhappy and his parents who could have made a difference hadn't understood it at all. Their failure had ultimately led him to his fall.
In a touching conversation, Brody asks his wife, "Have you ever once in your self-absorbed, precious life that consists only of Carrie Kent and more Carrie Kent, have you ever really considered how universally shattered and distant the three of us actually are....were..."
For every parent out there, this book offers pain, heartache and tension but it also tells you subtly that there is no magic wand that parents can use to help kids. There is, however, an effective tool called 'listening' because when you listen to your kids deeply, it makes them feel more valued and loved.
It's definitely a very emotionally moving book. Do read it.