A Father’s Affair

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In Karel Glastra van Loon’s intelligent story of marriage and fatherhood, love and death, Armin Minderhout, an editor of scientific research articles, is shaken when laboratory tests reveal that he has always been infertile and so could not have fathered the teenage Bo, whose mother Monika died suddenly ten years earlier. Now living with Ellen, a shamed and still-grieving Armin is thrown into a state of near paranoia as he begins his obsessive search, casting suspicion on Monika’s former boyfriend, on one of her co-workers, and even on her doctor. But finding the answer will leave him uncertain whether some things are best left unknown.

Glastra Van Loon artfully moves his tale back and forth in time, from Armin and Monika’s days of liberal social activism to Armin and Bo’s explorations of nature, subtly weaving in appropriate passages from the apocryphal Gospel of Philip that Monika was reading just before her death. Armin considered himself his own father’s equal only when he, too, became a father; but suddenly once again he is just a son. His relationship to Bo has also changed irrevocably, partly by his realization that Bo—whose first experience with a girl allows him, for the only time since his mother’s death, to sleep with his eyes closed—has become a sexual being like himself.

Armin thought that with Monika he had found a love beyond sex that fused two into one. As the truth is revealed, the title of Glastra van Loon’s taut and emotionally gripping novel assumes added resonance, forcing a reconsideration of much that has come before. A journey to solve the mystery of Bo’s paternity has become for Armin a test of rediscovering lost goodness and finding a new basis for future love.