It is possible for the course of a person’s life to be changed in an instant. Sometimes that change is for the better, sometimes for the worse. But then there are those times when it is hard to tell which it is. Nathan McCann, the main character of Catherine Ryan Hyde’s When I Found You, would probably tell you that, in his case, it would depend on which day of the week you asked him that question.
Nathan, a middle-aged accountant, is caught up in a loveless marriage to an unhappy woman who is only going through the motions of life. He is not, however, (as he will prove in spades later in the story) the kind of man to give up easily or quickly when he has made a commitment to another person. For now at least, Nathan’s work and his love of duck hunting help make up for the unhappiness of his home life.
And then it happens. While they are on a hunt one cold morning, Nathan’s dog leads him to the tree sheltering a newborn baby clothed only in an old sweater and a perfectly fitting knitted cap. When, much to his shock, Nathan discovers that the baby is still alive, he drops his shotgun where he stands and rushes the child to the local hospital – where, beyond all odds against it, doctors manage to save the baby’s life. And, almost unbelievably even to Nathan, his own life is about to change every bit as drastically as the abandoned baby’s life will be changed because, almost out of nowhere, he is filled with an all-consuming desire to adopt this little boy.
|Catherine Ryan Hyde|
But, that is not to be. The baby’s grandmother steps up to claim him, and the best that Nathan can do is get her to agree that she will someday introduce her grandson to “the man who found him in the woods.” Young Nat (who was named after Nathan) proves, though, to be more than the old woman can handle, and one day fifteen years later she does more than introduce the boy to Nathan – she abandons him on man’s doorstep. Thus begins the rest of Nathan McCann’s life, and it will not be an easy life because Nat will soon vividly demonstrate how he wore out his grandmother and why she dumped his care into the hands of “the man who found him in the woods.”
The basic plot outline of When I Found You is what compelled me to read the novel. I was intrigued by the idea of a man who, strictly by chance, stumbles upon the one person with whom he will be most intricately bound for the rest of his days. I expected a tale of a life saved, and put to good use, by someone who had escaped what was almost a certain death sentence. Instead, the book turned into more of a cautionary tale with the message “be careful what you wish for”. When I Found You is interesting in the way that train wrecks are interesting…I looked, but I didn’t enjoy it.