Words That Sustain Me: Atticus, part 1

“When I was in college I read a folk tale about a father pursuing a son who’d run away, from one world to the next.

The father called to him, ‘Please come back!’ But his son looked across the great gulf between them and shouted to him, ‘I can’t go that far!’

So his father yelled to his son, ‘Then just come back half way!’ But his boy replied, ‘I can’t go back half way!’

And finally his father shouted, ‘Walk back as far as you can! I’ll go the rest of the way!'”


The book that we read in the month of November is, “Atticus”, by Ron Hansen. Atticus is another short book at just two hundred and forty seven pages, but it’s another great book. It’s a tale about a Colorado rancher named Atticus Cody, who receives word that his wayward younger son, Scott has committed suicide in Resurreccion, Mexico. When Atticus travels south to recover Scott’s body, he is puzzled at what he finds and begins to suspect murder. Atticus is a story of a father’s steadfast and almost unfathomable love for his son, a mystery that the author’s fiction explores with a passion and intensity no reader will be able to resist.

Ron Hansen’s prose in Atticus caught my attention from the start. Just about anyone can write using lots of words. A master tells the story with a few words as possible. Hansen’s imagery and his ability to seemingly effortlessly tell a story painting pictures with his words took me away from this place. I’ve been in solitary confinement for two decades living in a 1 hundred square foot area during this time. I dream of traveling, of seeing the world and being outdoors for as long as I want. Hansen’s descriptions of ranch life in Colorado come to life in my imagination a took me far away from here. That’s as close to heaven on earth as I can get and the author does that for me throughout Atticus.

The main theme that resonated with me was the father son relationship between Atticus and Scott. Atticus brought to mind my father, Carter Flores, who was also wise mature, responsible, and a man of God who loved me absolutely no matter what I did.

Another part of the story that touched me deeply was the tragedy of parents having to bury their children. That felt personal to me because it was my worst nightmare for twenty years. That possibility forced me to live my life desperately with my number 1 goal being to somehow, someway stay alive even though I had a death sentence so my mother and father wouldn’t have to bury me.

Atticus was sixty seven years old in this book. My father was sixty 1 when I was sent to Texas death row. Dad was seven years older than I am today. While read this book I realized that and asked myself, what did my father feel, what did he dread? What did he mourn when I was sentenced to death?

In another part of the book Scott recounts a terrible experience that he goes through and say of his father that, “I could hear the fierce control in his voice as he asked, ‘You okay son?’ The him in him could be fully silenced, if need be, he could put away his emotions like things he’d never had much use for. If fathering was his job then he’d do it.”

That was my father to a “T”. So many times my antics would push him to his limit but he had the ability to put everything to one side and always do what was best for me in his role of being my father. I look back on these times and I am left in awe.

Ultimately, Atticus is a story of the prodigal son, a parable told by Jesus in the gospel of Luke. If ever there was a story that encompassed my life, it’s the prodigal son. And like the father in Atticus, the father in the parable Jesus told, and my father, no matter what the wayward son did, they were always ready to rush out and greet him welcoming their son back home with open arms.

That is why Atticus is another book worthy of being on the list of books read by our Words That Sustain me book club!