Three Weeks to Say Goodbye
C.J. Box turns out a compulsively readable thriller about an adoptive father fighting to keep his baby girl safe.
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It turns out that it’s his father, the rich and powerful John Moreland – a sitting federal judge – who really wants the child. But why?Skip to next paragraph
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Initially, the judge says his son must learn responsibility as there are consequences for actions.
Later we’re told the judge wants a second chance at raising a child. You know, a do-over.
It’s obvious that his first attempt at fatherhood is a failure (that is, if you consider raising a sociopath to be a bad thing).
But sometimes you shouldn’t give second chances. Mulligans on the golf course are fine. The more of them, the better.
But when it comes to parenthood, perhaps “one and done” is fine.
The law is on the side of the Morelands. The McGuanes don’t have any money.
Furthermore, what attorney wants to battle Judge Moreland?
It’s apparent that this judge has the connections, money, and power to get he wants – always.
Not to mention that his son has the other side of the law covered. He prefers the company of Sur-13 – a powerful gang affiliated with the Mexican Mafia.
You don’t want to cross either Moreland. They seem to be bulletproof.
As the title suggests, Jack has three weeks until he must turn over his daughter.
Box cleverly walks you through each of those days. Nary a one is mundane or typical. And during this time you are introduced to a lot of questionable characters.
Some are repulsive, like the suspected pedophile who works as a campsite host on federal lands – the same federal lands where children have gone missing.
Some are borderline, like Uncle Jeter Hoyt, a recluse from Montana who may have the right intentions but just as easily could put together a Unabomber-like manifesto.
Others are almost likable despite their faults, like Jack’s friend, Cody – a cop who sees laws as rough guidelines. Cody thinks most people should follow the law, even though he doesn’t need to.
He’s only dirty for the “right reasons.”
Box takes you on a classic “man against the machine” ride. And the machine doesn’t flinch.
The odds are stacked against Jack. If he were a football team, he’d be the 2008 Detroit Lions – mismatched at every level.
And as the story progresses, it becomes apparent that Jack cannot win. Every strategy he pursues is wrongheaded.
But the guy’s desperate. Who wouldn’t be, knowing that handing over his baby girl to her legal father could mean her horrific demise?
Does Jack end up like the 0-16 Lions? Or is he able to snatch a victory at the last minute?
I’m not going to tell you. But I will say that just when you think you’ve figured it out – you haven’t.
And then when you think you’ve got it right a second time – nope, you’re wrong again. It’ll keep you guessing.
I read “Three Weeks to Say Goodbye” during what could have been a miserable flying experience, complete with many delays and cancellations.
Thanks to C.J. Box, I didn’t mind the flights – not even the guy behind me who used his tray table as a drum set and my head as a cymbal.
When I hit the last page, I wanted more.
Bravo, Mr. Box. You did it again.
Jimmy Orr is the Monitor’s online editor.