Antoinette van Heugten
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Release Date: October 2010
Publisher: Mira Books/Harlequin
Book Site: http://www.savingmaxbook.com/
My Rating: 4.5/5
Source: Received for review from Phenix & Phenix Publicity
What would a loving mother not do for her child?
Lawyer Danielle Parkman is at her wits' end. Her son Max, a whip-smart teen with high-functioning autism, has always been a handful. But lately he's shutting down, using drugs and lashing out - violently.
Desperate, Danielle brings Max to a top-flight psychiatric facility for a full assessment. But rather than reassurance, Danielle receives an agonizing diagnosis describing a deeply damaged, dangerous boy - one she's never met.
Then Danielle finds Max unconscious and bloodied at the feet of a patient who has been brutally stabbed to death. A fiercely protective mother instinct rears its head - and Danielle is arrested as an accessory to the heinous crime.
In a baffling netherworld of doubt and fear, barred from contacting her son, Danielle clings to the thought of Max's innocence. But has she, too, lost touch with reality? Is her baby boy really a killer?
With the justice system bearing down on them both, Danielle steels herself to discover the truth - no matter how horrifying. It's a path well on the wrong side of the law. But only finding the true killer will absolve her from having to choose between her son and her soul.
I started reading Saving Max on one of my lunch breaks and easily sped through the first 50 pages or so within that half hour time frame. It was so intense and engrossing that I simply didn't want to go back to work! Basically it's a story about the determination, love, and devotion of one mother who's fighting to save the life of her son and herself. But don't let that cookie-cutter sentence description fool you. There's so much going on in this well-written novel. I guarantee it will suck you in from the beginning like it did me.
Danielle Parkman is a top-notch lawyer who doesn't necessarily receive the credit she deserves from her mostly chauvinistic co-workers. It doesn't matter to them that Danielle is a mother of a very bright but challenging and autistic son. It doesn't matter that she works extremely hard at her job despite the negative work environment. But she has to put those worries aside because Max is becoming more distant and, unfortunately, more dangerous everyday. Recent violence towards her and fear for Max's safety has forced Danielle to turn to Maitland Hospital for help.
One of the best psychiatric hospitals around, the doctors at Maitland may be able to diagnose and treat Max where others couldn't. Or that's what Danielle is hoping for. But shortly after he is admitted, things start to go horribly wrong. Max's seems to be more violent and Danielle's visitations with him become more and more restrained. Her son's emotional state and behavior reported by the staff at Maitland make him sound like a complete stranger... Danielle knows Max though and is convinced that the hospital is mistaken.
Soon after being told that Max needs to become a permanent residence for treatment, Danielle finds him bloodied, unconscious, and next to a brutally murdered patient. Max is quickly arrested for the crime and Danielle is taken in as an accessory after trying to protect him. The ensuing battle to prove Max's innocence is overwhelming, scary, and entirely realistic. The dramatic investigation is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat as the story introduces new characters and plot twists that are very well put together.
Being a new mom I was very empathetic with Danielle. My daughter is only 3 months but I know I would sacrifice any and everything for her and I always will. Knowing that I was very skeptical throughout most of the novel because I know the love for a child can easily blind parents. Was Max as innocent as Danielle knew he was? Or did he lose grip with reality and become a killer? I also kept thinking, "Wow, this could be a great Lifetime movie." And I only say that because of the strong personality of Danielle. Although she took way too many risks for my taste I can't say I wouldn't do the same for my child. There's nothing wrong with Lifetime movies (I've come to enjoy many Lifetime productions) and I know the audience of the network would absolutely be thrilled with a story like Saving Max.
I just had minor issues with some of the things that happened during the trial part of the story. It was kinda hard to believe some of the stuff that went on in the courtroom but it didn't keep me from enjoying it. Overall the novel a very strong debut for author Antoinette van Heugten. It was a frighteningly realistic portrayal of a mother fighting for her child in a world filled with people that are never as sane as they seem. I am definitely going to be checking out her future books.