Jacob (Jake) Finch Bonner is a writer and published novelist whose first book reached critical acclaim but not the commercial success he’d dreamed about. His second book didn’t reach the level of the first and so he began teaching in an MFA program at Vermont’s Ripley College that even he knew wasn’t highly regarded. Jake was also struggling the past few years to find inspiration for his next book when one of his students, an arrogant and narcissistic young man named Evan Parker, declares he doesn’t need his or anyone’s help because the plot of his book is so compelling, it will become an immediate bestseller on its own. Evan won’t share more than a couple of pages with Jake but it’s enough that he becomes highly intrigued with the beginnings of the plot.
A few years later, another student with Evan’s personality traits triggers Jake’s memory and he searches to see if that much touted story ever got published. When he discovers that Evan died a few weeks after he left Ripley, Jake ultimately convinces himself that he can pursue writing the story himself. It does become that predicted commercial and financial success and Jake’s name is right up there with the well known authors of the day. But as he’s enjoying all that comes with fame and critical acclaim, he receives the first of many messages to come from an anonymous sender called “Talented Tom” who simply states, “you are a thief.” Jake’s private search sends him on a journey into Evan Parker’s past that produces astonishing results.
Let me first warn you that this story requires your patience as it takes some time to develop but there is a payoff for your efforts. When it finally takes a turn to the point where it’s hard to stop reading (or in my case, listening), the foundation that was created provides that insight into the characters you’ll need to keep up. To make matters more interesting, the story transitions between Jake’s present day movements and excerpts of his book. Those transitions were well crafted as they become more meaningful as Jake delves deeper into Evan’s life. But the most compelling aspect of the story is the question it raises about the ownership of an idea. Jake had only a fragment of Evan’s story premise but was it enough to be considered a theft of someone else’s story? You’ll be left to decide that for yourself.
I listened to the story and it took me a moment to adjust to the narrator because he was so low key. But, after a bit I realized he was just being Jake who consumes most of the beginning of the book and he did that very well. When other characters emerged, there was quite a distinction. I’m really glad I chose to listen versus read because he helped build the excitement and intrigue, especially that twisty ending. I also have to admit to having guessed the surprise revelation but not the ending. I enjoyed this slow burn novel with the provocative proposition about what constitutes theft in the writing arena. You’ll have to consider decide for yourself. And, the journey to get there was delicious.
- Release Date: May 11, 2021
- Narrator: Kirby Heyborne
- Audio Length: 10 hours, 43 minutes
- Publisher: Macmillan Audio
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(Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for my complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.)