Peter Thomas Senese provided the book Chasing the Cyclone to me, free of charge, in exchange for review. A positive review was not guaranteed, and no other compensation was provided. All opinions are my own.
From Peter Thomas Senese’s webpage on describing this book:
“Chasing The Cyclone was both the hardest and easiest book for me to write. It is a story of international parental child abduction and a father’s unending desire to find, protect, and unite with his kidnapped son. I mention that it was the ‘hardest’ story because the story is drawn from my experiences as a Chasing Parent who was forced to race to the other side of the world in search of my own child. And surely it was the easiest story to write because, well, it is based upon my experiences and familiarity of having to attempt to find and bring home my son. Which I did. Safely. This a first-hand account of the growing epidemic that is international parental child abduction, and the extreme difficulties all parents whose child has been abducted must face in order to protect the welfare of their victimized child or children. This story makes clear what needs to be done both here in The United States and throughout the world in order to protect children from being abducted and taken across international borders.”
This is a very accurate summary and description of the book. Yes, the book is fiction based on the author’s first hand experience. In perusing his webpage on the subject matter, it became very clear to me that Mr. Senese is extremely passionate about this subject. Since he has personally experienced it, I can understand why.
I was given this book by him to review.
Now, for those of you who have been reading this blog for a while you know something about me: I read.
On average I read a book a day. Sometimes more, sometimes less. This book took me about 3 hours total to read. I am a book snob. I actually don’t know how long this book is as I read it on my Kindle. According to the author, this book only took him 7 weeks to write.
Considering the quality of the book this is both surprising and unsurprising. I suspect it took longer to edit than to write. That being said, the book is well edited- something that has become a rare jewel in the literary world of late.
However, for all the passion and intensity the author put into the subject matter, I had a really hard time connecting and believing the main character. I think this had to do with some of the periphery sub-plots in the book that really took away from the main plot- the main character trying to rescue his son from the boy’s mother who was using the child as a pawn in her scheme to extort money and revenge on the boy’s father. Spoiler: all the subplots have to do with cancer. I think having two such emotional issues in one book can be distracting.
The main plot is hard enough to read when I think about the idea of someone trying to abduct my son to another country. But, add in the periphery subplots of a young child getting cancer, and it takes away from the point of the book.
Back to my original statement about not being able to connect with the main character- the Father, Paul. I could see that the father loved his son in the book, but there was an oddity to it. Perhaps it was because the father had never been the primary caregiver- but he didn’t have any nicknames for his son. Instead, he just called him “Son”. Even in his internal dialogue he didn’t have a nickname for him. That said, the Father’s anger and rage also felt like it was painted atop the character skeleton. I kept waiting for Paul to swing violently at nothing, to swear loudly into the wind- to anything. But he internalized it all.
Yes, he did lash out at the people who were trying to help him- these were the moments that felt most real to me. When he got angry, he snapped and blamed everyone. His despair was the most real emotion to me. The futility of his actions and the depression and irritability that brought on was the most palpable emotion.
Now, in a book on child abduction, I do expect some long dialogue about the law. This was ample. The Hague Convention is a little known law and some explanation was required- to both the main character and to the audience. But, soon the explanations became internalized by the main character who then proceeded to lecture on the subject. This internal lecture overrode the story and the plot with its statistics and tid bits of international law.
Personally, I love statistics. LOVE THEM. Seriously. However, they are distracting in a fictional book when they are constantly quoted. But, it was in these non-fictional statistics and anecdotes that I really felt the author’s passion for the subject. These numbers impressed upon me the importance of knowing your parental rights and the law involving child abduction. The Atlas Shrugged-esque lectures on the Hague Convention, American, and Canadian law were filled with real understanding of the subject and the intense desire to make others understand them.
To me, this was the real purpose of the book. The story of the Father chasing his Son to the ends of the earth was just a mechanism to share the story of child abduction.
It is clear to me that Peter Thomas Senese is not only personally knowledgeable about this subject, but also spent a lot of time researching it and talking to others who have experienced it. I would love to see that book. A non-fictional account of the Chasing Parent’s stories interspersed with his passionate account of the Law and Statistics of Abduction. That book would be brilliant and I would read it.
This book was ham-handed with moments of brilliance.
However, I am glad I read it. This is a hard subject to read about as a parent. But it is an important one. And when someone is passionate about it, it makes for a decent read.