Jack and Melissa McGuane experience every adoption family’s worst nightmare when just their nearly nine-month-old daughter is about to be declared legally their child, the birth father shows up and demands her back. Seems that his father, a powerful federal circuit court judge wants to teach the young man a lesson about responsibility. Or so he says upon first meeting the McGuanes and giving them a three week deadline to turn over Angelina to them. (He will, of course, compensate them for the costs of adopting the child and offers to help them find another baby to adopt).
The father is a well connected political figure in the Denver community, leaving the couple on their own quickly. Their lawyer dumps them (he doesn’t want to cross the powerful, rising star judge) and every avenue they pursue comes up empty.
But something sinister is going on. The son shows up with his gang-banger friends to watch the Broncos/Raiders game and is taking an unusual interest in Melissa. The McGuanes, with the help of Jack’s two best friends, slowly begin to delve into what the real motive for the Judge’s sudden interest in their daughter is and why he’s willing to use all his influence to make sure he gets the baby back.
The first half of C.J. Box’s "Three Weeks to Say Goodbye" reads like every adopted parent or family member’s worst nightmare. Box paints a picture of a couple desperate to be parents and who have mortgaged their present and future to adopt Angelina. Add to it the bonds created in the eight plus months they’ve been parents to Angelina and you’ve got a truly nightmarish scenario unfolding. And that’s before the couple begins to get the vibe that something else is unfolding here–something far more sinister and connected to several of the other subplots of the book.
In fact, there’s no such thing as a subplot in this book. All of the threads running through the first 50 pages all come home to roost in the final pages of the story, each with a varying degree of believability. Described by one reviewer as an elaborate "revenge story," "Three Weeks," is sort of that and sort of a suspense thriller. It’s got a lot of promise and an intriguing hook. I’m just not sure it necessarily earned its ending after the final page was turned.
As I said before, there are no loose threads here. And while some things unfolded in a different manor that I originally guessed, a lot of the revelations in the final pages didn’t necessarily come as a huge surprise.
What I was left with is mixed feelings. The first half is a fun, engaging pop-corn novel. But like many big budget Hollywood thrillers, the story tries too hard to keep piling on twist after twist, moment after moment in the second half and ends up losing a lot of the early momentum from the novel’s first half. Overall, not a terrible book but not a great one either.