I loved the sound of The Good Son as soon as I heard about it and I was thrilled to be invited to read and review this title via Netgalley by the publisher, Little, Brown Book Group.
Who can you trust if you can’t trust yourself?
Early one morning, twenty-six-year-old Yu-jin wakes up to a strange metallic smell, and a phone call from his brother asking if everything’s all right at home – he missed a call from their mother in the middle of the night. Yu-jin soon discovers her murdered body, lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs of their stylish Seoul duplex. He can’t remember much about the night before; having suffered from seizures for most of his life, Yu-jin often has trouble with his memory. All he has is a faint impression of his mother calling his name. But was she calling for help? Or begging for her life?
Thus begins Yu-jin’s frantic three-day search to uncover what happened that night, and to finally learn the truth about himself and his family. A shocking and addictive psychological thriller, The Good Son explores the mysteries of mind and memory, and the twisted relationship between a mother and son, with incredible urgency.
The Good Son is an in-depth character study of Yu-jin, who wakes up at the start of the novel covered in blood and with no memory of how he came to be in such a state. Over the next three days, Yu-jin seeks to piece together the events of that evening, with flashbacks to his past – his time as a competitive swimmer at school, the death of his father and older brother, Yu-min, and his interactions with those around him. I have to admit that I found this novel a little confusing at first, and if you find yourself in the same situation, it is worth sticking with it to see where it goes. Whilst it takes some time to answer the questions it initially poses (and adds a few more in along the way) it does all become clearer, and I found myself drawn into this complex story after my initial confusion had passed.
Yu-jin is an unusual and complicated character, and I found myself questioning the boundary between his memories and his imagination – it wasn’t entirely clear how much of the narrative I should believe. Added to this is the fact that he has recently stopped taking his medication, an act that he does from time to time to revel in the almost manic state it results in, which he, understandably, prefers to the lethargy induced by his medication. Is he an unreliable narrator, or is he a young man adversely (and unfairly) affected by his medication? This was the question I kept coming back to throughout the novel as I learnt more about him and his background, and I liked the ambiguity as to whether I could trust Yu-jin’s narration.
This is an incredibly dark and clever novel, although it’s one that I suspect won’t appeal to everyone. I came to love the slower pace and the level of detail feeding into the question of did he / didn’t he do it. I didn’t realise when I read it, but The Good Son is inspired by a true story, which makes it even more shocking once you understand the outcome.
The Good Son is published today – 3 May – in hardback and digital formats by Little, Brown Book Group. Many thanks to Grace Vincent for the opportunity to read and review this title ahead of its publication.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐