The story sets in a small town somewhere in Massachusetts one August morning with the burial of a 21 year old Economic graduate Frank Fowler, Ruth and Matt’s youngest son. Along to grief with the couple were their two other children – Steve, oldest and Cathleen, the second among the brood.
Richard Strout, a 26 year old former football scholar dropout who has worked as a bartender, shot Frank one Saturday night in September right in front of his two sons.
Strout was known to many as the spoiled and hot-tempered guy. It was this very same attitude that caused his wife of 6 years, Mary Ann, to file for divorce.
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Mary Ann was the girlfriend Frank had before his death. The two met in Salisbury beach where the latter worked as a lifeguard. Their romance blossomed while she was in the process of the divorce. Frank’s mother, Ruth, disagreed to the relationship. She never wanted Mary Ann for her son for a number of reasons: first, she had a history of playing around, second, the divorce was not finalized yet, third, she had kids and lastly, she was older than him. Matt, on the other hand, being a protective father that he was tried to understand his son and weighs the balance between his wife and son. He accepted Mary Ann and welcomed her into the family. Unfortunately, this was not the same case with Strout. Whether be it for his pride or love for Mary Ann that forced him to commit murder, it was very clear that he never approved of the divorce.
The tragedy has not left the Fowlers since then. Conflicts arose when Strout was granted a bail for which his presence made coping tougher for both Matt and Ruth. Strout was seen all over town living a normal life after the crime. Seeing him not only sharpened the pains of losing their son but it strengthened the eagerness of revenge.
Matt and Ruth’s suffering grew with each passing day. To end such suffering, Matt premeditated on killing Strout with the help of his friend, Willis Trottier. Willis, a short silver-haired man, was a restaurant and bar owner who shared Matt’s sentiments. Being a good friend that he is, he felt for Matt. Together they consummated a crime.
Dubus was able to present the story in a very vivid manner. He was able to showcase conflict of emotions in an orderly way.
The crime committed by Matt to overcome his ill feelings maybe justifiable. There is no greater pain than losing a child to someone with no worth. It is more unacceptable seeing the antagonist out in the open and free while justice was not fully served yet. But then again, we cannot correct a mistake by another mistake. It’s not always right to take the law into your own hands. Avenging may make things worse in the future. In this case, once authorities discovered Strout’s murder, they will only point at one suspect, the one with the strongest motive. That will make the struggle for the Fowlers more gruesome.
Like the saying goes, ‘to err is human, to forgive divine. Sometimes we have to go over the limits of human nature to put things in its proper perspective. It might take time, but justice will be served.
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