Thursday, August 07, 2008

Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

I just finished the latest book from Harlan Coben. The title "Hold Tight" refers to a parents grip on their kids and the struggle to let them go and at the same time protect them. This book is obviously a commentary on today's society where we tend to be overprotective of our children.

The book starts with several different storylines that Coben weaves together connecting them all at the end. Each storyline looks at familial situations where someone is trying to protect their family and what the lengths they will go to protect them. Mike Baye (pronounced "bye") and his family live in the suburbs with their son (age 16) and their daughter (age 11). Mike is a doctor, his wife, Tia is a lawyer who stayed home with the kids for many years and has just gone back to work. They are struggling with their son, Adam because he seems to have withdrawn even more than usual after the suicide of his best friend. They are so worried about him and his behavior that they install spyware on his computer to see what he is up to. They rationalize this invasion of his privacy by saying they don't want him to end up like his friend and they are just trying to help him. All of this leads to a crazy several days in the course of the book where Adam disappears, Mike gets beat up, the daughter Jill discovers her best friend has Columbine-type thoughts about shooting a teacher who said something completely inappropriate to her and ruined her young life. There are two smaller story lines about a guy killing a couple women because he is looking for a "tape" and a neighbor of the Baye's whose son has cancer and needs to find a donor. Aside from doing anything to protect your family storylines, Coben also delves into the issue of privacy and how much do other people really know or should know about other people.

Because I tend to only read a little at a time with books, all the different story lines annoyed me a little until they started coming together. I was having to keep track of all the characters and where they were in the story while trying to figure out where it was all going. Coben did bring all the tangents together nicely toward the end and I was very satisfied with how he closed everything up. I definitely think the second half of the book was better and more interesting than the first half. It did make me think about children's privacy a bit. The book makes a strong point about the difference between parenting children today and a generation ago. When I was a kid, children ran around their backyards and the neighborhood for hours on end. Parents just trusted that they would stay in the area and didn't know what was going on every second of their kids' lives.

It just seems the carefree days of childhood are gone. And I find myself falling prey to this mentality. I'm constantly wondering where my 5 year old is in the house and what she is up to. I try to give her space and trust her with little things. But its difficult. There are also so many more things for children to see on television and predators on the internet as well as the information available on the internet that children can gain access to. We can check up on our children at any given time just by giving them a cell phone or sending them email or text messages. So now, coming back to the book, even though it is fiction, I think Coben raises interesting questions here. How much do we interfere and try to protect our children? How far is too far? What's being too lenient?

Coben seems to ask all these questions in his book and in the end, one of the characters wonders what course the story would have taken if they had just left things alone to see where they went. The "problem" in the story may have just cleared up on its own. Who knows?

Sorry to ramble on in this review. I just think its an interesting topic to try and find that balance as a parent where you are keeping your children safe, but also letting them learn and find their own way and learn from their mistakes. Obviously, this one had quite a bit of food for thought for me. :-) I have not been disappointed in Coben yet and look forward to the next one I read.


bookfool said...

I haven't read this Coben yet, I really like his stuff though, I'm looking forward to it.

Great review, really got piqued my interest!

Matt and Allison Campbell said...

Oh, this sounds really thought-provoking. Any parent in these times has to think about this stuff. Kind of a rock-and-hard-place situation, unfortunately. I remember walking a couple blocks from my friend Mary's house to the drugstore to get ice cream cones. And riding my bike to my friend Julie's house, a ten-minute ride. I can't imagine letting Lilah do that kind of thing today.

Ha! You got me rambling, too (not that you were rambling, though). Good review!