4 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

4/5 stars

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This book opens with Zach hiding in a closet with his first grade class, their teacher trying to keep the kids quiet as a gunman rages through the school.  The kids hear the pops from the gun.  Finally, the police come and escort the teacher and students to a nearby church, but not before they see the blood sprayed over the halls and students laying dead on the ground.  Without giving too much away, this book takes you through the aftermath as one family heals from this terrible tragedy.

I thought this book was excellent and very well done.  I think it showed parents whose grief consumed them in a realistic way and who didn’t have anything left to give their child.  I think it was very real, with very flawed characters.  I am sure it is a book that will stay with me for a long, long time.

This book was narrated by 6 year old Zach.  In some ways, I found his innocence made it easier to tackle difficult topics, because although the reader understood what was going on, Zach did not seem to.  I also found that I love reading children’s views and perspectives of family life.  A book narrated by an adult would never have mentioned some of the mundane details this book mentioned, but those details added so much to the story and gave an accurate picture of the family and what they were like as individuals and together.

****

School shootings were not the issue they are now when I was growing up in the 1980s.  I am always asking myself why?  What changed in our society?

I do not subscribe to the philosophy that it is additives in our food.  Or

We are more stressed as a society.  The population has doubled since I graduated from high school in 1990, I think more people fighting for space can definitely bring us closer to the end of our ropes.  We have also become more scheduled, we do more and we have our kids do more activities and that adds strain to our days.  The special effects for movies and videogames lend themselves to more spectacular violence, so there is that.  There used to be homes for mentally ill people and that was not positive, but the alternative does not seem to be either; I think we need to find some common ground where there is government sponsored help for the mentally ill (government sponsored because once the mentally ill individual becomes an adult, they would no longer be on their parents insurance and the parents may not be able to afford the care).

I am not a proponent of taking away guns.  I think any regulation in this area will lead to people getting guns through the black market.  I am not a fan of the NRA because I feel that their stance on things is pro-gun manufacturers more than pro-gun owners and quite frankly, I think the NRA gives gun owners a bad name with their statements supporting guns that look like cell phones or plans to build guns being readily available.

I think one of the biggest issues and I know this is going to be unpopular, but one of the biggest issues is parent involvement.  I think a lot of parents have a lot going on and they are just not involved with their kids and don’t know what is going on.  It could be a mental health issue or a case of bullying pushing a kid too far or a case of a kid who feel ostracized or wants attention.  I don’t believe you have to be mentally ill to want to harm other people, I think there are times when a mentally stable person can be pushed to that.  I think if parents made more time to talk to their kids and heck, spy on their kids, that could make a difference.  Not that I am blaming parents for this, but I think it’s part of the equation.

I think we need to ask ourselves what has changed in our society in the last 25 years that could have lead to school shootings being such a prevalent issue and take measures as a society to change those things.

 

 

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