Todd Jones is a man of faith and a man of action. This weekend he was also a man about town, accompanying lovely wife Connie to the Nashville Public Library’s Literary Award Gala and Patrons Party. The back-to-back evenings honoring author Scott Turow inspired him to write today’s post. For Todd’s introductory bio and prior post on Six Presidents, please click here.
With Scott Turow recently in Nashville to receive the Nashville Public Library’s annual Literary Award, I thought I would offer some thoughts on Innocent, his 2011 novel written as a sequel to his wildly popular 1987 novel, Presumed Innocent. You will recall that this riveting legal thriller was made into a movie starring Harrison Ford, probably every novelist’s dream come true. So after writing another eight novels in between, Turow returns to the same cast of characters that peopled his first and best-selling novel of all. It is like a glad reunion for those who loved Presumed Innocent. Rusty Sabich is accused again of murder, and this time the evidence points even more condemningly in his direction. He is charged with the murder of his wife, Barbara, who literally got away with murder in the first novel. Once again, Sabich turns to Alejandro (Sandy) Stern for his defense, only now Stern is a man suffering with a terminal disease. The great gift that adds to the sequel is that Rusty and Barbara’s only son, Nat, is now grown up into a very winsome, captivating character. Of course, he also bears the scars that the best of parents inflict upon their children. As the story draws to a close, Nat and Rusty come face to face for a father-son moment of truth. Rusty says, “I am happy in the most fundamental way to see my son, although the sight of him is also accompanied by faint distress. We mean well by our children, but so much rests beyond our control. There is a nervous distraction to Nat, a looking here and there that I expect will be permanent, and an ingrained frown that I realize I have seen for more than sixty years in the mirror.” Any parents blessed to witness their children grow into adulthood will draw a deep breath with this truthful word.
As he talks with his father, whom he loves dearly, Nat says, “’Dad, one of the things that I really hated about growing up in this house was that everybody had secrets. Mom had her secrets, and you and Mom had secrets together, so I had secrets, and I always wished everybody would just f—ing talk. You know?’ This is one complaint I fully understand and would probably be powerless to change.” The whole story turns and moves on family secrets, sins as old as humanity itself. I recall a very wise Rabbi, Harold Friedman once observing, “Secrets are the cholesterol of family life.” Yet secrets that are too dark to tell anyone are what makes Innocent such a compelling story, worthy of Turow’s very best work.