Most mystery thrillers have an antagonist who tries to kill or harm the central character for some reason, thereby being the driving force of the story. With psychological thrillers being the new favorite genre, most of the time, there is no “worthwhile” reason behind the crime committed by the villain. The person could go without committing the crime but does so, which results in creating somewhat of a mix of horror and terror in the minds of the readers. Kaira Rouda attempts to do the same in “Somebody’s Home,” a thriller that came out in 2022 and received a mixed-bag of reviews.
One of the primary reasons for this may be that the characters are sketchy and underdeveloped. Another reason could be that several bits and pieces of the novel remained unexplained. For example, the reason why Julie decided to shift was not quite adequately explained, Sandi’s go-to plan was not elaborated, and most importantly, Tom’s reason for committing the ultimate crime was not explained in depth. Surely, the novel could do better when it comes to all of these aspects, but when it comes to Tom committing patricide, Rouda has given enough clues, which the readers are bound to gloss over because of the multiple characters narrating the events. Is it because of the unhealthy relationship that existed between the father and the son, or is it because of Tom’s neurodevelopmental disorder and anger management issues? Let’s delve deeper and try to find out the reason.
Tom is the son of the head pastor of the church in Orange County. Doug, his father, was left by his first wife (Tom’s mother) when Tom was only 6. Tom never got to know why his mother left suddenly and without him, but he eventually ended up taking the blame on himself. His father’s second wife, Sandi, was his Sunday school teacher, and though she was always very nice to him and cared for him, Doug didn’t make things easier for either of them. Doug would take out all his anger and frustration on the two of them. Growing up, Tom has known nothing but anger, hatred, and violence. His father would hit him for hours at an end and wouldn’t stop even when he bled. He would always tell him how he was a failure and how he wasn’t like everyone else.
After Sandi had two children of her own, Doug started to make Tom feel even more miserable by reminding him how he wasn’t loved anymore. Tom became very lonely. At school, he was bullied by the kids and ill-treated by the teachers for not being able to keep up with his studies. At home, his father would bully him and treat him like a punching bag. Gradually, he detached himself and stopped talking to anyone in his home. At school, when the kids tried to bully him, he would fight them, and eventually, the bullying stopped too. He was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. It’s clear that his father’s anger had passed on to him, but ADHD is a serious disorder. It makes one not just distracted and inattentive but also impulsive and hyperactive. Tom wasn’t bad at heart. He knew that Vic and the other people he had grown closer to were not good company to keep. He knew that if they wanted, they could hurt people, but he also felt like he belonged with them. He felt closer to them because they acknowledged his feelings, something that no one in his family ever did. This is something to think about, actually. Most people whom we regard as criminals, are they actually bad at heart, or are they people who have always been bullied and trampled upon until they could take it no longer?
Most of the people who engage in criminal activities are actually severely misunderstood people whose feelings have never been acknowledged by anyone close to them. This is what happens with Tom too. Doug was an abusive parent, and Sandi might be caring and loving, but she is a “stepmother,” something that Doug had etched in young Tom’s mind. Deep down, Sandi herself felt the same, no matter what she said or how much she loved Tom. She knew that Tom was going down the wrong path, but instead of trying to explain that to him herself, she would turn to Doug, who in turn would punish him in his own ways.
Tom couldn’t focus on anything for long, and studying was always more difficult for him, especially with his dyslexia. He took to playing violent video games to let out his pent-up anger and frustration. Killing and shooting in video games made him feel better. He took to exploring the dark web too, which is notorious for all forms of illegal activity. Another thing that Doug had inculcated in him was the idea of ill-treating and subjugating women. For Doug, women were meant to be confined to the household, taking care of the family and satisfying their husbands. A woman, according to him, should have no other purpose in life. In fact, a woman cannot have any other purpose because she is incapable. They are much inferior to men, and hence, they can and ought to be treated like that. Tom grew up with that belief too, and soon he started treating Sandi like the way Doug treated her—abusing, laughing, and looking down on her, which in turn hurt Sandi’s feelings. Vic also told Tom to beware of women because they are “dangerous.” According to him, women are meant to be “screwed.” So, even after growing up, Tom’s beliefs did not change because of the company that he kept.
His contempt for Doug grew even more with time because of the way Doug treated him. Doug never cared for him or tried to make things easier for him, knowing well that his son needed him. He let Tom suffer. Tom saw the kind of person Doug actually is—how he preaches kindness and forgiveness but treats people horribly. He saw the hypocrite that his father is, and things only became worse when Doug sold the house without telling Tom. He didn’t even give him enough time to look for another place to live. He made Tom feel that he wasn’t welcome in their new house. Tom could no longer take it. His father has hurt him his whole life, but now he is taking away from him the one and only thing that he has: his place. This was the place where he was born and where his mother once lived. It was the only place that had memories of the person he had yearned for his whole life. Doug and the new family were now trying to take it away from him, and he couldn’t let that happen. He couldn’t leave this place because what if someday his mother returns and is unable to find him? What would he do then?
Those who have ADHD are known to be very impulsive. They take hasty decisions without thinking about the consequences. Tom did the same. As it is, he was a severely misunderstood person, and on top of that, he had the wrong influences, which could do much more harm to him than it could to any other person of his age. So, he ended up committed to kill his own father, for which he never repented later on too. He did send Sandi a letter from prison later, thanking her for saving him, but he felt no remorse for committing patricide, which is considered one of the worst forms of sin in all cultures and religions.