Rape is a horrific crime, and there are many mysteries and thrillers with a woman’s rape at the core of the story. The Damage, by Caitlin Wahrer, is the first book I’ve come across in which the rape victim is a man — a gay man. That twist alone made for an interesting story.
Tony and Nick are half brothers. Tony is considerably older than Nick, old enough, in fact, to be his father. The two brothers are very close, and in fact, Tony has played the role of father to Nick for Nick’s entire life. Their own parents, though living, have not been fit to parent for the brothers’ entire lives.
Tony is called to the hospital when his brother is brutally raped by another man, badly beaten, and left for dead in a hotel room. Nick will survive the ordeal, but he claims to have no memory of anything that happened after the man he met in a bar and with whom he left voluntarily entered a motel room. He was hit from behind, and when he regained consciousness, he was alone and had been brutally attacked.
Tony’s protective instinct kicks in, and he is determined to find out who did this terrible thing to his beloved brother, and make him pay. Tony’s wife Julia loves Nick as much as does Tony, but her reaction is a bit calmer. She is more apt to let the justice system play out, even after the police catch the rapist. He proclaims that the sex was consensual, and that Nick asked to be handled roughly.
While the story moved a bit slowly, and parts seemed unrealistic, I liked the bond that the people in this story had with each other. However, the author’s portrayal of Nick, battered both physically and emotionally, is poignant and seems like an accurate portrayal of a rape victim trying to move on with his life. I also liked that the portrayal of the police officer showed a deep sympathy for and understanding of the victim instead of the more cliched idea that men can’t be raped.
The ending was a surprise that the author cleverly left to nearly the last page of the novel.
The Damage wasn’t one of the best books of the year, but I nevertheless enjoyed it.