“337” by M. Jonathan Lee is, at it’s heart, a character study of Sam Darte, a man whose mother disappeared when he was a teenager. Through present-day action and Sam’s memories of the past, the author skillfully weaves an elaborate portrait of this individual, and how the past contributed to making him who he is today.
Much of the focus is on relationships….notably Sam’s with his mother, father, brother, grandmother, and estranged wife. Each relationship is treated with depth and empathy, and it was heart-breaking to see how Sam’s past has negatively affected how he relates to the important people in his life.
Despite police evidence and court findings, Sam still isn’t sure exactly what happened to his mother. He spends time reviewing documents and questioning his grandmother in an attempt to finally learn the truth. This quest ultimately leads to some interesting results, both factual and personal, which I won’t mention to avoid spoilers.
Overall, I found the book to be incredibly sad, but very much worth reading. I enjoyed seeing how Sam learned more about who he really was, and who he wanted to be. In the end, I view the story as both a cautionary tale about the value of time and a reminder about the importance of family. This is a deeply emotional and moving novel, and one I highly recommend.
One note: I was lucky enough to receive the special double-ended upside-down edition from the UK publisher. This version is only available in the hardback edition, and only from UK booksellers. That being said, while this feature is unique and interesting, reading a copy of the book without it will NOT affect the story, or your enjoyment of it, in any way.
All in all, five out of five chunks of rich, sharp cheddar!