Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sandy Hook Mother's Radio Address, School Shootings, & Picoult's Nineteen Minutes


From yesterday's BBC article "Sandy Hook mother replaces Obama for guns radio address:"
The mother of a victim of last year's Sandy Hook shootings has replaced Barack Obama to deliver the weekly US presidential radio address.
Francine Wheeler, whose six-year-old son Ben was killed, used the nationally-broadcast statement to call for tighter gun controls.
Asking a citizen to deliver the weekly address is a highly unusual move. It comes as President Obama attempts to ratchet up pressure on the US Congress, which is due to debate new gun laws.
In an often emotional statement, Ms Wheeler recalled waiting for her son to return home following the shootings, and said the "tidal wave of anguish" resulting from that day had yet to recede. She said new gun laws were needed to prevent more deaths.
On the subject of school shootings, I have three novels to recommend. The first is Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult:
Bestseller Picoult (My Sister's Keeper ) takes on another contemporary hot-button issue in her brilliantly told new thriller, about a high school shooting.
Peter Houghton, an alienated teen who has been bullied for years by the popular crowd, brings weapons to his high school in Sterling, N.H., one day and opens fire, killing 10 people. Flashbacks reveal how bullying caused Peter to retreat into a world of violent computer games. Alex Cormier, the judge assigned to Peter's case, tries to maintain her objectivity as she struggles to understand her daughter, Josie, one of the surviving witnesses of the shooting.
I also recommend We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver:
Eva Khatchadourian is a smart, skeptical New Yorker whose impulsive marriage to Franklin, a much more conventional person, bears fruit, to her surprise and confessed disquiet, in baby Kevin.
From the start Eva is ambivalent about him, never sure if she really wanted a child, and he is balefully hostile toward her; only good-old-boy Franklin, hoping for the best, manages to overlook his son's faults as he grows older, a largely silent, cynical, often malevolent child...
The narrative, which leads with quickening and horrifying inevitability to the moment when Kevin massacres seven of his schoolmates and a teacher at his upstate New York high school, is told as a series of letters from Eva to an apparently estranged Franklin, after Kevin has been put in a prison for juvenile offenders.
And while the school shooting takes less of a prominent role in Empire Falls by Richard Russo, it's still a major part of an excellent novel. Here's the summary:
In his early 40s, passive good guy Miles Roby, the son of Francine's husband's long-dead mistress, seems helpless to escape his virtual enslavement as longtime proprietor of the Whiting-owned Empire Grill, the town's most popular eatery, which Francine has promised to leave him when she dies. Miles's wife, Janine, is divorcing him and has taken up with an aging health club entrepreneur.
In her senior year in high school, their creative but lonely daughter, Tick, is preoccupied by her parents' foibles and harassed by the bullying son of the town's sleazy cop—who, like everyone else, is a puppet of the domineering Francine. Struggling to make some sense of her life, Tick tries to befriend a boy with a history of parental abuse.
To further complicate things, Miles's brother, David, is suspected of dealing marijuana, and their rascally, alcoholic father is a constant annoyance. Miles and David's secret plan to open a competing restaurant runs afoul of Francine just as tragedy erupts at the high school.

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