Image of The Row


Image of The Row

Johansson’s book reveals the hopeful highs and dark lows of having a parent on death row through a moving, first-person narrative — calling it an emotional roller coaster is an understatement. Protagonist Riley’s investigation of her father’s case keeps the plot moving at a steady pace, but the story is largely driven by her incessant “what ifs” and fervent reactions to things she often can’t control. The romantic plotline is the only potentially problematic piece; it starts with insta-love — or in this case, a huge insta-crush — but it becomes more genuine as the novel progresses.

Riley Beckett is used to receiving threatening letters and horrified looks from the people in her Houston neighborhood. To them, she’s the daughter of a killer. Her father was convicted of murdering three young women and sits on death row. He has reached his final appeal, and when the judge announces to the courtroom that he will be executed in four weeks, Riley feels her world caving in. Her father has always maintained his innocence, but at Riley’s next jail visit, he confesses to her that he’s been guilty all along. Did her father only say that to help Riley and her mother move on, or is everything Riley thought a lie? This time, it’s Riley’s turn to investigate and figure out the truth. (FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX, Oct., 352 pp., $17.99, 9780374300258, HC, 12 & Up)
Reviewed by: 
Tricia Carr