Book Review: The Practical Navigator

The Practical Navigator
By: Stephen Metcalfe
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Release date: August 9, 2016
Genre: adult fiction
320 pages
Source: ARC kindly provided by publisher

I'm a girl who generally reads YA, but in real life I am very much an adult. Adults must face down fears and challenges that sometimes feel insurmountable. Michael Hodge, the main character in The Practical Navigator, is a regular guy taking on the regular challenges of life. He doesn't save the world. He doesn't do anything particularly heroic, in fact. Despite this, I rooted for him like he was an old friend, and rejoiced in his small victories.

Michael is a former surfer, current builder, who is raising his young autistic son with the help of his mother, who is struggling with her aging brain. Michael is familiar with single parenthood, having been raised primarily by his mom while his dad was largely absent. Michael's absent wife, Anita, hasn't been around since their son, Jamie, was a baby. Michael bears responsibility for his son, his mother, and his work crew- so when his wife re-appears after a years-long absence, he struggles to decide if he can, or will choose to, take on responsibility for her as well.

This is primarily Michael's story, but the secondary story line between Rose and Leo was a gem. As is every other character in the book, they are both flawed, broken people who are searching for a little happiness and peace. This storyline breaks my heart, to face the truth that all of us struggle, are hurt, and search for comfort. It also makes my heart sing, to understand that this is another way in which we are connected, and that we can help each other.

I love a well-written character, and this novel is full of them. If you do, too, I encourage you to pick it up. It hits the shelves today, so you won't even have to wait.

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.