The Practical Navigator - Stephen Metcalfe
Michael Hodge is a struggling contractor living in Southern California raising his autistic son, Jamie, on his own. When his long-absent wife Anita returns unannounced wanting--Michael isn't sure what--a reconciliation? A new relationship? Her role as their son's mother back? Michael must decide whether to give her a second chance or protect his son from more hurt. Meanwhile, a burgeoning relationship that could be heading towards love is put on hold while Michael reexamines his feelings for this woman who abandoned them years earlier.
With pitch perfect emotion and a beautiful portrayal of the relationship between a father and son, Stephen Metcalfe's The Practical Navigator has drawn a rich and layered portrait of a what it means to be a family and what it means to be truly loved.
So first and foremost, I hate to be that totally sexist person who assumes a guy can't write a story like this but I am 100% guilty of that. I am, and I am a jerk. I am a jerk who was 100% dead wrong. Here's a story about a guy who just treads water no matter what is thrown his way. He has a son with Asperger's, and he isn't sure what to really do with that, what would be best for his son long term. He has a wife who he never divorced from, but who has been gone since their son was young, who randomly shows up and wants to be a mom. The problem is that she doesn't know how to be a mom, let alone to her son with Asperger's, and she then looks at that as another reason why she's such a failure. Michael also runs a contractor business, with employees dependent on him to keep finding jobs for them, and he doesn't know how to make that business grow in the current economy. Add to this and Michael's mother, Penelope, may or may not have the beginnings of Alzheimer's so he's struggling at keeping her independent but always keeping an eye on her. He depends on her to help with Jamie's care so the fact she might not be able to much longer adds more stress. The greatest thing about this book is that no matter how many things are seemingly out of control in his life, Michael navigates it calmly and perfectly. He does his absolute best for everyone around him, even when it means more on his plate.
In between all of this, we have glimpses of Anita (the ex-wife) to give insight as to why she's such a mess. Her family, which are HUGE messes and the highlight of dysfunction. We have Michael's relationship with Fari, who struggles with intimacy and really likes Michael but doesn't know what really to do about it. But heartbreakingly, we also have small glimpses from Jamie, Michael's autistic son, and what things are like for him. And there is a scene where Jamie is at school and there is a bathroom incident and while everyone else is panicking, my heart just goes out to Jamie and I think- what must life be like for him? As a mom I can't help but want to hug him and tell him things are OK.
I absolutely LOVED this book. I said above I wasn't sure how much I would get into it, but I finished it in a day because I couldn't put it down. I just wanted things to be OK for Jamie, and I wanted him to know even though his mom is a mess that she loved him. I wanted her to pull her crap together. I wanted Michael to tell her to beat it and keep his relationship with Fari. And man alive, I really wanted Anita's mom to tell her dad where the hell to go and how exactly he could get there. The author does such a great job at telling this story, from all points of view, and nailing each one. I absolutely have to give this book 5 stars, and you know I don't throw those out often. But this book just grabbed me from the first page and didn't let me go until the end.
You can purchase your own copy of The Practical Navigator on Amazon now, it become available on August 9. In the meantime, be sure to enter the giveaway below, I have one copy up for grabs (US only). In the meantime, you can visit Stephen at his website. Good luck and happy reading, lambs!
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*I was given a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*