Time lost can not be regained. But time will heal the hurt. This book does a good job of handling the situation of time lost. John must re-establish himself after five years in prison. “Half a decade locked away with no computer and little television had left him in something of a time freeze.”

The tension is between John and his adjustment to normal life. He can’t drive so he can’t get a job in another city. That leaves him at the mercy of his brother-in-law who gets him a job as a bus boy in the family dinner. He feels he has let his family down. All he has now is a small cottage and five lost years. And a dysfunctional family.

He has paid his debt. He is a changed man. He has had a religious conversion. How can he transmit that fact to his family?

“The cottage, the dock, the lake — they were all here and haven’t changed. He could return to a place. But his children — they had all gone on without him, had grown into people he would not know. They would be little more than strangers to him, and he to them.”

“I’ve missed so much. “ He looked up at his wife. “I’ve missed too much. Maybe there’s no way to come back now.“

His oldest daughter has drifted away from the family and is caught up in the drug culture. She doesn’t want him home.

His youngest daughter, Phoebe, 6, was too young to remember him, but she accepts him. His son who has Down syndrome holds the family together. In fact, the son, Billy, is a very strong bit player and plays a large part in the climax to the story. It shows that not all Down syndrome children are helpless. Chances are that he could be a possible character in a follow-up if there is one planned.

The theme of second chance is handled well here. It is developed not only in John but in the minister of the nearby church who is a recovering alcoholic.

“Surprised to see me in the pulpit?”

“Well, yes, to be honest.”

“Tell me, John, have you ever read Graham Greene’s novel ‘The Power and the Glory’?”

“I don’t remember. I’m not much of a reader.”

“So you’re not familiar with the whiskey priest?”

“No, I don’t guess so.”

“Well, you see as Greene put it, ‘He was aware of his own desperate inadequacy.’”

The second chance theme also runs through the wife’s story. She wants it to work out. “She still believed John loved her once. She held that belief in her heart like a piece of fine china, all wrapped up in layers of tissue paper. Sometimes she took it out and gazed at it longingly, then wrapped it up securely again and tucked it away.”

It is a realistic story. John is portrayed with weaknesses. He commits adultery with a woman in his AA group. Later we find out this is the mother of Lena, a co-worker at the amusement park where Rebecca works part-time. Lena is leading her into a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol.

Rebecca is trying to control things, and feels her dad is getting in the way. This is typical of teenagers and their relationship to parents. In this case, Rebecca has missed five years of his life. John’s battle to regain his daughters’ trust and handle his adultery presents one of the strong plot lines. Author Ann Tatlock presents the tension in a believable fashion.

Find Dane Robert Swanson at smdp_review@yahoo.com for comments. By the way, I remain the best looking book reviewer in the city of Santa Monica.