Blaming a recently deceased father for his personal frailties becomes an emotional reflex for Lucas as the circumstances of the death trigger long dormant memories of a childhood traumatised by infidelities and lies.
As a pharmacologist Lucas leads a professionally clinical life analysing the biological building blocks that unlock the potential for longer life yet this scientific exterior masks an addictive personality whose apparent disregard for the dangers of narcotics is more akin to a rock star than an academic.
Keith Richards meets Stephen Hawking is a strikingly incongruous image but Lucas exhibits the fatalistic characteristics of both as he tiptoes into a relationship with Mariana; a seductive IT nerd who conceals artistic flair.
The discovery of a long forgotten diary, in his father’s belongings, gives us the link to the past and this becomes the page turning stimulant for revealing the cause of both Lucas’s and his father’s emotional free fall and the insurmountable barrier it created in their personal relationship.
Paul Read’s skill in delivering a haunting beginning and end gives the plot contextual book-ends as the past is literally and physically consigned to ashes by the present only for the light of hope to potentially be quashed by the serendipity of life.
The lure and sensory appeal of drugs seems to underscore the plot. Heroin is the great escape, the great excuse and the creeping temptation but the reality check comes in the shape of Lucas’s brother Ryan who provides the mirror for missed parental experiences and deap-seated regret that youthful betrayal and splintered trust prevented any hopes of reconciliation.
The author’s ability to describe the subtle nuances of this recollected relationship with understated precision provides real insight into the emotional fallibility of the lead character. Mariana appears to tease first desire and then nascent commitment out of Lucas but it’s the feeling that it’s almost too good to be true that that taints any optimism.
Ultimately it’s the feeling of what could have been that permeates this account of a failed relationship created by the dissolute behaviour of a parent and a child unable to recapture the innocence of childhood in diaries able to tell the truth often missing in old age.
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