Recap: If you were given a time travel machine just moments after your father was killed, what would you do? Go back in time, right? Fix it? Save him? Of course. And that’s exactly what happens to Chance Sowin in The Prodigal Hour. At the beginning of the book, Chance Sowin returns home to his father in New Jersey after 9/11 has startled him and made living in New York uncomfortable. But upon his arrival, his father — a brilliant scientist — is murdered. He quickly learns that one of his father’s inventions has something to do with it. He and his longtime neighbor — and childhood crush — Cassie Lackesis unravel the truth behind his father’s research.
His father had developed a time machine. Despite the consequences, the two go back in time to save Chance’s dad. When they do so, his father tells them about the dangers and beauty of time travel. And off they go — back to the time of Jesus and Hitler. With hopes to watch history happen, they instead become involved, and it changes everything.
But The Prodigal Hour uses dual narration. Besides Chance, we also learn about Leonard Kensington, another scientist and time traveler. But as we read the chapters he narrates, we realize he has a distorted sense of reality…or rather it’s different from our reality. It leaves us to wonder how Leonard is related to Chance and Cassie and when and where they will meet.
Analysis: Many novels nowadays tend to use 9/11 as a way to entice readers. It’s a depressing, relatively recent event to which we can all relate, remember, and grieve over. Often times, I feel 9/11 is abused in books and movies. While September 11th is the starting point of The Prodigal Hour, it’s not the focus of the story, and I like that.
And while I’m a big fan of the time travel concept, I must admit the beginning dragged a bit for my taste and was confusing when explaining the science behind the time travel. The Leonard Kensington narration intrigued me, but also left me confused about where he fit into the story.
That being said, the second half of the book was amazing. I had been lost as to why Chance and Cassie travel back to the time of Jesus and Hitler — and not happier moments in history — but I later realized it didn’t matter in the overall scheme of the story. And as the time travel concept came full circle and brought Cassie, Chance, and Leonard within minutes and cities of each other, I couldn’t put the book down. The last half was a whirlwind of crazy time, space continuum, in which I got caught up not only with when and where, but who, what, and why.
MVP: Chance Sowin. His character shows a lot of range, depth, and growth throughout the book. Initially, I am annoyed with him and his stubborn need to travel through time and change history. But he grows up and learns that who is more important than when.