Only Child by Rhiannon Navin
To say this is a topical book is an understatement. Reading it less than a month since the latest U.S. school shooting atrocity gave this book about the fallout of an Elementary school mass shooting an added frisson of emotional resonance.
This really is a clever book particularly as the author has managed to keep the Politics for the most part out of the story. There is no discernible stance on anything that has caused rage, recrimination or consternation in the past month. This is First and foremost an examination of the visceral human reaction to a catastrophic loss.
Written from a seven year old’s perspective, this deeply insightful story shows that the reactions to the loss of a child so suddenly and seemingly without reason, bring out the most extreme versions of oneself. The already fractured family dynamic begins to implode and the young hero Zach is left to take action himself to bring the escalating misery to an end.
I liked the structure of the story and the way that on the surface it is the loss of the child that is the cause of the trouble, but the way as the story unravels that the cracks beneath the surface begin to appear, I did not always like both of Zach’s parents, but I did empathise with them.
This is ultimately a story about forgiveness and love and family, the truths so beautifully mirrored in the child’s stories that Zach retreats into, to be closer to his complicated but adored older brother become the bedrock of his survival as he becomes increasingly isolated.
I was close to tears often as I put myself in the place of all the characters , each of them flawed but I found this to be a satisfying and heart warming story that I suspect will continue to be relevant for decades to come.