Eight years ago, police officer John Faimu made a horrifying discovery. While investigating a religious cult that had reportedly not been providing kids with schooling, he instead found 15-year-old Caleb Fletcher, beaten and horribly abused. Caleb was so traumatized that John stayed involved, even after the case was closed. John has become close friends with Caleb’s father and a friend, confident, and sometimes caretaker to Caleb. But now, eight years later, John has also fallen for Caleb, though he knows nothing can happen between them. Caleb is still way too fragile and John would not do anything to jeopardize his recovery.
Things for Caleb are up and down. While he is made great improvement from the sheltered and abused teen who was unprepared to enter the world, he still lives nothing approaching a normal life. Caleb has frequent suicidal thoughts, can lose control easily, and struggles in social situations. Having a strict routine helps, and his father and John’s support helps even more, but each day is still a struggle for Caleb. Caleb knows he has fallen for John, and at 23 years old, Caleb wants to have be able to have a relationship like other men his age. But John is wary about crossing that line and what it will mean if things don’t work out between them.
While the men are navigating their fledgling relationship, things are further complicated when an unresolved part of Caleb’s case suddenly reopens. Wounds that had been slowly healing are now ripped back open, and John isn’t sure what toll they will take on Caleb’s mental health. John finally has a chance to punish those who caused Caleb so much suffering, but resolving the cold case so many years later is not easy, especially when it may bring new threats to both John and Caleb.
The Parable of the Mustard Seed is a story that is at times heartbreaking and painful, but also beautiful and poignant. It is told in present day, but we get brief snippets at the start of each chapter that flash back to Caleb’s case and early recovery, so over the course of the book we slowly learn what happened to Caleb and how his relationship developed with John.
When the books starts, John is already in love with Caleb, and has been for a while. Although John is a little older, the age gap isn’t really an issue. From a work perspective, the problem is that the men met while John was investigating Caleb’s case and he was a minor. From a personal end, John’s deep fear is hurting Caleb. He worries if things don’t work out that it will be too much for Caleb’s fragile mental state and John can’t bear the thought of hurting Caleb. So there are some angsty times here as the guys work through things. I really enjoyed John and Caleb together. Despite the fact that we don’t see the men falling in love, I never felt I missed anything. The way the story is crafted, I could totally feel the connection between them and I loved the gentle way John cares for Caleb, while also giving Caleb an opportunity to show his own strength and decision making.
While Caleb has come a long way, he still has a lot of emotional issues arising from his traumatic past. The story is careful to show that Caleb has made progress, but there isn’t a magic fix and he may never be fully recovered. At times, it’s steps forward and then steps back, and for every good day, there can be a bad one. Henry does a nice job giving what feels like an authentic portrayal of a man suffering under the weight of severe trauma and the toll it can take on him and those around him. So this isn’t always an easy book, especially as we learn more about Caleb’s past, but things are ultimately hopeful and happy for the men.
The story also has a suspense element as the case opens back up and suddenly John finds himself investigating once again. There was a crime committed years ago, but the cops were unable to get the bad guys charged and now it looks like they have the evidence they need to reopen the case. So this adds some excitement and some intense moments as John and his team are attempting to solve the case and catch the bad guys before anyone else gets hurt. This added elements balances out the story nicely, giving us some counterpoint to the relationship side of things.
Overall, I found this story moving, intense, and really rewarding. It isn’t always an easy read, but it kept me engaged and rooting for John and Caleb to make things work. It is a really fascinating story and one that left me happy for the life the men manage to create for themselves.