Wednesday, November 21, 2018

“The Wake Up” by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Aiden Delacorte, 40, is a cattle rancher and horse breeder who’s been exhibiting some strange behavior. He balks at performing the normal tasks of a cattle roundup, almost injuring himself in the process. He lets his ranch hands go. His girlfriend walks away, unable to understand what’s happened to him.

Something has happened to Aiden. He’s started experiencing the feelings of the animals he’s around – cattle, horses, dogs, and even rabbits. He’d never considered what animals might experience, but he’s more than considering them now. He’s also decided to sell his cattle and get our of the cattle ranching business altogether.

He gains a new girlfriend, Gwen, new to town and with problems of her own. She has two children, 13-year-old Elizabeth, who’s easy to like, and 10-year-old Milo, who isn’t. Milo has serious behavior problems, stemming from physical abuse by his father. 

Aiden’s psychiatrist tells him he’s an empath – a person who is highly sensitive to those around him. Empathy with animals is unusual; in Aiden’s case, it may be a first step toward empathy with people. 

How theses broken people learn to understand and deal with each other is the story of The Wake Up by Catherine Ryan Hyde. And the story is compelling and difficult to put down.

Catherine Ryan Hyde
The relationship between Aiden and Milo slowly takes center stage. Aiden begins to sense Milo’s feelings, and sometimes lack of them, and tries to find a way to reach the boy. That Milo had a tendency to hurt animals doesn’t help.

Hyde is the author of more than 30 novels, the best known of which is Pay It Forward, which was released as a movie in 2000 and starred Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt. The Wake Up was published in 2017.

Hyde employs a deft use of tension between the man and the boy that ebbs and flows. Aiden gradually comes to understand how much of Milo’s story is also his own story, and the question is whether resolution can be reached for both of them. 

Top photograph by Kenny Webster via Unsplash. Used with permission.

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