The best thing about this book is that I really, really could relate. My daughter is the exact same age as this kid. Raising a toddler really can make you feel like you’re always dealing with one demand or disaster after another. But at least I was somewhat expecting that. It’s not the case with Hardy’s main character, James Keeper.
He’s been divorced for several years, now in a new relationship but continually thinking of the old one. One day out of the blue he gets a phone call: his ex-wife is in the hospital. Nearly on her deathbed (though he doesn’t know it yet) she asks him to promise to take his dog back. Only later when he shows up to collect, it’s not a canine but a child: his child, fathered three years ago during a trip to a family reunion he attended to maintain a false front for a grandfather who didn’t know they’d divorced. This guy doesn’t know how to deal with kids, but he has one now. Worse, his girlfriend doesn’t want to have anything to do with kids at all. In the ensuing winter months, James (or “Keeper” as he’s often called) slides around trying to find his footing in the new, strange territory of fatherhood.
I had a hard time putting Keeper and Kid down. Alongside the main story, I was intrigued with Keeper’s interesting job: finding old, valuable items to sell online or in his scrapyard/antique shop. I liked the surreal part of his weekly card nights with friends where they viewed forty-year-old slides chronicling the vacations of an unknown family, found in an antique chest. And most of the descriptions of life with a toddler rang home. Though I got a bit tired of Keeper’s hopelessness and self-pity his friends prove themselves to be true, and he learns that no one can raise a child alone.