The Prodigal Hour is an ambitious novel, to say the least. It is both strange and complex and for all the right reasons. The author, Will Entrekin, somehow figured out a way to intertwine the tragedies of September 11, the crucifixion of Jesus, and the possibility of time travel into a single narrative. And he does so admirably. I already feel like I've revealed too much, but it’s difficult to talk about this book without mentioning some of the ingenious and inventive twists and turns Entrekin comes up with.
On the surface, The Prodigal Hour is something of a thriller. You have a physicist who has accidentally invented time travel and you have the government agents who want to take it from him. You have the son, Chance Sowin, who wants to do right by his father and his work, but who is reeling from the still-recent attacks on the World Trade Center, not to mention the passing of his mother. It is, in fact, the passing of Chance’s mother that propelled his father’s work:
“You come home to a big, empty house that once upon a time contained the laughter of your wife and your child but now reverberates with silence, and you build a small, secret room within it, a place that’s yours, a place where you can try to work through the pain and where you can hope the pain won’t find you. You conceal a part of yourself from the world, and you attempt to preserve it the best way you know how.”
-Will Entrekin, “The Prodigal Hour”
There is also Leonard Kensington, who travels through time on behalf of an agency called CIRTN. Chance and Leonard don’t know each other and have never heard of each other. But it’s clear, by the clever way in which Entrekin paces their dueling narratives, that it’s only a matter of time before their paths cross—and more clear than that is that something big will happen when they do.
And, along with all the thrills and science fiction, there is also a love story (a couple of them, really). Entrekin is clever enough to know that time travel and love go hand in hand. How often is love paired with regret? And how often have any of us looked back on past loves and wished for an opportunity to do it again? To do it better. Or just to do it at all:
“The world could spin around them and all of time could continue ever onward and ever backward in endless permutations from their present moment, but there and then Chance could kiss her, and that alone could be constancy enough. If the entire universe had come into existence and all of history led up to the moment of his lips on hers, it might well have been meaning enough.”
-Will Entrekin, “The Prodigal Hour”
The prose in The Prodigal Hour is confident, which is clearly an extension of its author. That’s not to say the prose is cocky or has a too-high opinion of itself. It simply reads like it knows exactly what it’s doing and, more importantly, why. I enjoy getting lost in books, especially when the story is adventurous and daring, a story with so many moving parts that I can’t possibly keep track of all of them.
It’s in those stories where the hand of a sure and confident author is needed. The Prodigal Hour is a daring story with big ideas and loads of moving parts and yet there was never a moment when I didn’t feel comfortable in Entrekin’s prose.
I could sense, without ever really knowing, that no matter how strange the story got or how far out the plot went, Entrekin always knows exactly where he is and where he's going and, most importantly, how to guide his reader to where they need to be.