The Quiet Boy by Ben H. Winters
Publication Date: May 18th, 2021
Hardcover. 448 pages.
Publication Date: May 18th, 2021
Hardcover. 448 pages.
About The Quiet Boy:
"In 2008, a cheerful ambulance-chasing lawyer named Jay Shenk persuades the grieving Keener family to sue a private LA hospital. Their son Wesley has been transformed by a routine surgery into a kind of golem, absent all normal functioning or personality, walking in endless empty circles around his hospital room. In 2019, Shenk—still in practice but a shell of his former self—is hired to defend Wesley Keener’s father when he is charged with murder . . . the murder, as it turns out, of the expert witness from the 2008 hospital case. Shenk’s adopted son, a fragile teenager in 2008, is a wayward adult, though he may find his purpose when he investigates what really happened to the murdered witness.
Two thrilling trials braid together, medical malpractice and murder, jostling us back and forth in time."
The Quiet Boy is an interesting mix of a legal thriller, medical mystery, and a dash of a speculative note, all of which together made for an oddly compulsive story that I couldn't drag my eyes away from.
The story has a dual timeline setup, which half of the story occurring in the present timeline in 2019, and the second half occurring in the past covering events from 2009-2010. There are also two main legal cases occurring, one for murder and one for medical malpractice, respectively, but everything in this book essentially evolves around a boy named Wesley who has an odd condition in which he sort of just exists–not growing, not shrinking, not eating, not vegetative, just there, endlessly walking in circles–and the medical malpractice suit that arises from it.
I've never been much of a legal thriller or courtroom drama fan, but that did not get in the way at all of my enjoyment of this book. There is a good portion of this book that does take place in a courtroom, but there is also plenty that occurs outside of a courtroom, which I think makes it appealing to those who both loves courtroom thrillers and those who are here for the speculative elements that are hinted at in the synopsis. I'll be honest, if you are only here for the speculative elements, you might be a little disappointed because that doesn't play a huge role in the narrative itself until near the end of the book. I was pretty confused throughout a decent portion of this book because I was trying to understand when that would all come into play in more than just hints and mentions, but if you hang in there you will get to it, and it's definitely odd.
We get views into a couple different perspectives throughout the story, but the two main ones are that of lawyer Jay Shenk and his son, Ruben. Jay is a personal injury lawyer who knows what he's doing and knows how to connect with people, both for sincere reasons and for the ability to get them to do what he wants. He's a smooth guy that in real life would probably annoy me, but being able to get inside his head and see that he's actually just as much sincere as he is after money allowed me to really understand and connect with him in a way that I really enjoyed. Shenk is just a guy doing we he loves and helping out people who need it, and he happens to be making a lot of money while doing so–or at least, he usually makes a decent bit of money. At the heart, though, he really is motivated by his desire to help people who have been taken advantage of and to hold the ones who have caused harmed accountable for their actions.
Ruben is rather different from his father in that he's a bit more on the quiet side and isn't quite as outgoing as his father, but he still is just as intelligent and willing to put himself out there. Ruben isn't directly involved in the medical malpractice suit involving Wesley because, at the time, he was still in high school, but the suit still has an enormous impact on him for a variety of reasons, one of which was due to his connection and friendship with Evie, Wesley's younger sister, that would last into his adulthood in the present day. Ruben was an exceptionally interesting character to follow because I never really felt like I knew what he was going to do, and especially in the latter 2019 timeline a lot of the time it really seemed as though he himself didn't know what he was going to do–he seemed like a man who had had a difficult life and was in a place that felt a bit uncertain and lost.
The Quiet Boy was a more heartbreaking book than I expected for a number of different reasons, some of which I anticipated, such as watching a family suffer while they have no idea what is wrong with their son, and some of it was unexpected, which I can't mention in specifics due to spoilers. This is a fast-paced book in the sense that I felt a constant push to turn just one more page because I had to know how some event was going to turn out, and even if I felt like I knew what was going to happen I still had to read it myself to find out for sure. Winters expertly crafted a narrative that felt both thoughtful and intense, full of suspense but never rushed, and packed with characters that each had their own motivations, personality, and goals.
Overall, I've given The Quiet Boy four stars. If you're looking for a read that's hard to put down, then you really can't go wrong with The Quiet Boy.
*I received a copy of The Quiet Boy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*