Narrator: Paul Morey
Length: 8 hours, 36 minutes
15-year old Zach Taylor is too smart for his own good, with wealthy parents and the chance, at such a young age, to attend MIT. He has it all, except for his best friend, 18-year old David Evans, whom he loves. David has always seen Zach as the tag-along kid and one day he sees Zach in a different light, as an attractive young man. David’s feelings show on his face one night and Zach takes makes the first move and kisses David. However, David cannot do anything with Zach since he is underage and rebuffs him.
Zach’s parents understand their precocious son and, in an effort to encourage his emotional growth, send Zach to visit his aunt in Costa Rica, where young Zach is kidnapped at the airport and held for ransom. Though the ransom is paid, Zach is not seen again, until an American/Dutch military operation discovers a young man, beaten, emaciated, and broken in the jungles of Venezuela. That young man is Zach Taylor, alive after five years in captivity.
Zach’s treatment at the hands of the leader of the guerrillas has left him physically and emotionally scarred. Zach is ashamed of his body, which has been mutilated, and yet his psychological well being is a problem, the shame still present after two years. Scared of commitment, emotionally unavailable, both Zach and David are afraid to share their feelings, and even if they do, can they really make a go of it after everything that has happened? Their parents are tentatively supportive, but also afraid that the boys could get hurt. On top of that, Brian, one of the few tricks Zach has slept with more than once since his return, turns out to be a journalist and he has learned secrets about Zach’s past, secrets Zach is desperate to keep from David.
When we meet Zach, he has been a prisoner for five years, mentally, physically, and sexually abused, and it is all we can do to keep from crying at his situation. This section of the story was beautifully crafted and gave us a full idea of the horrors Zach experienced without going overboard.
Now home in the U.S., Zach is running wild, drinking, and fucking anything that moves. I did not find him to be particularly self-destructive, rather he was demonstrating a need to be the top, to be in control at all times, to compensate for the five years of hell as his captor’s “pet.”
Journalist and bar hookup Brian is snooping, gathering pieces of the puzzle, and, as a secondary character, he was integral to the progression of the story, and I personally had a love/hate relationship with him. Okay, more like a hate/hate/learned to tolerate relationship, but you get the point. The rest of the secondary characters had dimension and depth, and it was apparent that all aspects of the story were carefully thought out and executed. From the characters to the overall world building, Finding Zach was top-notch.
I listened to this story on audiobook, and there were so many times that I would talk back to the narrator, or to one of the characters, as I would forget for a moment that this was a work of fiction. This must have made me quite the sight in the car as I laughed, cried, talked, and occasionally yelled during my commute to and from work. This demonstrates that the overall product was written, and produced well enough to suck a reader into the story so completely.
The chapters were introduced with a small piano piece, which I found original, but by the end of the book, I would get chills every time the music began, knowing that Zach’s painful story was not yet done.
The narrator was adept at doing voices for Zach, David, Brian, and Zach’s mom, though they were not consistent. However, the rest of the characters sounded mostly like David, or a variation of one of the other characters. One thing I did like was that Morey’s narrative voice was a little on the raspy side and was enjoyable to listen to all on its own. I also found that the audio was really well edited and had minimal gaps in the flow.
Even what I would consider to be mediocre verbal characterizations did not detract from my enjoyment of the story. What I would have liked to hear would have been more emotion in Morey’s voice during the many painful, angry scenes. There was a lot of swearing, by both David and Zach, and even some of the secondary characters, and while at times I could feel the anger or frustration, oftentimes, it was just an f-bomb without the feeling.
Looking for a fluffy, feel-good story? Go elsewhere. Want a story that will put you through the wringer and in the end, give you hope? Read, or listen to Finding Zach, you will not be disappointed.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.