Reviewed by college student Stacey Krepel
The Second Son is the tale of a father’s quest for his missing son. The story takes place in Spain in the early 1930s at the beginning of a rebellion that would soon escalate into the Spanish Civil war; at the same time, fascist Germany is in the beginning stages of planning the eradication of its Jewish population. The smooth blending of facts and fiction, along with the unforgettable details and characters, recommend this novel to anyone interested in historical tales with a fictional twist, spy/detective stories, or mysteries.
With unbreakable resolve, Hoffner storms the city of Barcelona to find his son, who disappeared shortly after the violence erupted. He is soon thrown in with skeptical anarchists, low-lying Communists, spies, and the fiery yet collected female physician Mila Piera. With help from his new acquaintances, and of course his inevitable love-interest, he navigates through the now war-stricken country, seeking his son with only a list of names for a hint as to what may have happened to him.
Jonathan Rabb's prose shows he really understands how people read and perceive literature. He paints so crystal-clear a picture that the reader loses the feeling of being a reader and instead becomes the character - seeing the sights, hearing the sounds, breathing the same air. In a passage about one encounter between two characters, he writes, “Hoffner might have taken her for one of those sideshow curiosities ... It might have been bloating or bone disintegration, but whatever the reason, the addict was no less recognizable.... Her head teetered from side to side but thus far remained on her neck ... they stepped past her to the stairs.” Everything about this woman and this situation screams ‘danger,’ and we continue to hungrily turn pages, wanting to know how Hoffner will escape this new horror. In The Second Son, Rabb recreates a world that will bring you out of the twenty-first century and back to the 1930s to join a father trying to find and save his son. (2011, 304 pages)More about The Second Son at Powell's Books or Amazon.com