Patterson has made plenty of poor choices in his life. His son is dead, and Patterson spends the present missing his boy, wishing he would have been a better father in the time he had. Some of the most touching scenes in the novel are the letters Patterson writes to Justin, his dead son. Not only is Patterson prone to making bad choices, he cannot stop himself from helping those in need. This proves to be a lethal blend.
Most of the bad choices Patterson makes in Cry Father involve his addiction to his friendship with Junior, a younger man. Compared to Junior, Patterson seems wise and mature. That being said, no matter how bad Junior makes life for himself, the reader stays with him, largely because Junior expresses so much love for his young daughter. That and he exhibits an uncommon loyalty to Patterson.
These two men burn down their lives: drugs, cartels, violence, and although their loyalty to each other is self-destructive, it is also quite compelling. The story explores longing: the longing for a father, for a son, for a companion. It is about men needing other men, and how amiss those relationships easily become. In this sense, it is a surprisingly sensitive story.
Throughout the novel, runs a critique of contemporary society. A philosophy that states that life is better off the grid. A philosophy that values independence, self-reliance and that holds American systems of power and authority in contempt.
Both Junior and Patterson carry a handgun in the caliber of .45 ACP. Patterson, being much older, carries a 1911. The younger, more impulsive Junior, a Glock. In Cry Father guns function as metaphors for the men who wield them. The 1911, an older firearm design, is equipped with both a grip and a thumb safety. Although Patterson is always armed, always ready, he is cautious and carries with him an old-school set of values. A Glock has no external safeties, and because of this, like Junior, the gun is quickly put to violence. There is a lesser character in the story: a coward, Chase carries a tiny mouse gun chambered in .380 ACP, a diminutive caliber compared to the .45. Whitmer draws no attention to this structure; it's there for those who see it.
At the end of the story, there is no good guy. No hero. Cry Father is about men and their longing, the increasing distances they put between themselves and what they truly desire.