Reviewed by Claudia Robinson

Being passionate about reading often results in multiple unfinished books in just about every room of the house, dogeared and spine creased, smudged with guacamole or stained with wine. Jesse’s Girl by Gary Morgenstein, however, earned ‘book of the week’ in my house, following me in to every room, doctor’s visits and traffic jams, while all the other books gathered dust.

Gary exquisitely pens a tale about the trials and tribulations of a father and son trying to find their roles in a life that is blurred gray with the loss of a loved one, substance addiction and the pursuit of identity. From the very first sentence to the last, Gary’s story evokes the overwhelming despair of a father torn between his loyalty to a dead wife, a drug addicted son, and the manifolds and limitations of the law.

Teddy Mentor is Jesse’s adoptive, and recently widowed father. When he receives a call from the Wilderness program in Montana where Jesse has been sent for rehabilitation, and finds out his son is missing, Teddy’s life, numb and jejune, suddenly spins in to a maelstrom and forces Teddy to crack open his wounded heart and feel again. A sense of failure drives Teddy to find his son, face the demons, his and Jesse’s, and together they embark on a life altering journey to Kentucky, where against all his good judgment, Teddy agrees to take Jesse to find his long lost sister, Theresa.

As Jesse and the ebullient Theresa embrangle Teddy in a tale of murder, Teddy is forced to choose between conventional ‘right and wrong’ as perceived by the law and parental duty based on instinct, and love alone. His devotion for Teddy, and the desire to rekindle his relationship with his estranged son, takes them him on a harrowing journey that threatens to destroy, rather than heal them.

Jesse’s Girl is pulse-pounding and heart-wrenching, forcing the reader to forage within their own soul as they are dragged, with every new sentence, through a story of father-son bonds gone bad, the darkness of addiction and it’s personality altering power, the pursuit of redemption and the omnipotent virtue of familial love, blood born or otherwise.

Claudia resides on Cape Cod and is a wife and mother of two. She attended Lasell College in Newton, MA after spending 18 years abroad as the daughter of a Diplomat, her latest post being Belgium. Her desire is to work in the publishing business as an Editor.