When a writer really knows his characters and their world, when he knows his people and their milieu inside and out, a novel can’t help but be a strong one. Assuming the writer has talent and craft. Mike Miner has both, and in Prodigal Sons he has put his skill, experience, and imagination to use to write a calm, nuanced book about a family in crisis.
The book centers around the Flanagans, from Connecticut. There are three brothers, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and their parents. Matthew, the oldest and the wild child of the family, has moved to Los Angeles. Mark works in the family store. Luke, the youngest, lives in Boston where he battles with mental illness. In L.A., Matthew writes scripts, makes a lot of money working on commercials, and has a beautiful, loving wife and a large home. Everything should be ideal for him. He has ostensibly made it. Except that he drinks too much. Way way too much. When his wife leaves him and his boss places him on leave from his job, Matthew responds by taking to the road and going on an epic bender, accompanied by a teenage girl he has met named Tomiko. (Their relationship is sweetly conveyed and not a sexual one). Where else do you go when you want to cut loose and immerse yourself in debauchery? Las Vegas. Matthew and Tomiko drive there from Los Angeles, while back in Connecticut, the Flanagan family meets to decide what to do about Matthew. He’s gone missing from his LA house, and nobody knows where he is. When Mark and Luke agree to go out west to find him, everything is set in motion, and you wonder what Mark and Luke will do if and when they get to their brother. Will they give him a few brotherly punches in the mouth, tie him up and drag him to rehab, bring him back home?