Just finished this author's 3rd novel. I've read her other two books and loved the stories. This was a good one, too!
This book is a gripping reminder of how one person...one life...can have a ripple effect on another...and another...and another.....
It is a fast-paced story and a real page turner.
It's also just a little too real.
It is almost Spring Break for the school children of Broken Branch, Iowa. A sudden snowstorm begins on the last day of classes AND an unknown man with a gun walks into one of the elementary classrooms. It is a K-12 school. Some of the children manage to escape. Outside the school, the entire town watches and waits.
A police officer, Meg Barrett has the responsibility of the children in her hands. Will Thwaite, a grandfather of a teen girl and a young boy (Augie and P.J.) has been taking care of them for several weeks because their mom, Holly was badly burned in their home. They are from Arizona. Holly is in the hospital and Will's wife, Marlys is in Arizona helping to care for Holly. Holly has not been back to her hometown since she left at the age of 18. Augie and PJ had never met their grandparents until the fire.
Trapped in her 3rd grade classroom, teacher Evelyn Oliver watches for the chance to help the children escape. The gunman is in her classroom!! He has taken several of the cell phones from the older children and is calling someone from one of them. Augie risks her life to get to her little brother PJ.
Tension begins to build. Is the gunman the father of 2 of the children? Their mom just divorced their dad.
Or is the gunman the ex-husband of Meg?? and where is Maria, Meg's daughter??
Is the gunman the brother of Meg, who used to be a juvenile delinquent?
Just WHO IS THE GUNMAN??
Sadly, this story is way too real. I say that because of Columbine, Virginia Tech, West Nickel Mines School, and now....after the publication of this novel, Sandy Hook. And of course the numerous other schools and college campuses across our nation and perhaps Europe that we haven't heard about.
However, that is what held my attention. The remembering of these schools and colleges that have had wacky, insane, mentally ill people with guns in their hands and innocent children, staff, and teachers at the mercy of them.
This book brings out just how far a teacher will go to keep his/her students safe.
The story also explores the idea that this kind of violence and the consequences of it can draw a community together and it can also break it apart. But, it also shows that as school communities, we have managed to put into practice some very good safety policies and procedures that can keep our children safe and secure. Or that is the goal anyways.
The weather in the story plays a literal and metaphorical role in the story...I like when an author uses metaphors and/or symbolism and imagery in a novel.
At one point in the story (I am taking this from the discussion questions in the back of the book) the gunman asks " "what kind of town is this? doesn't anyone know who their father is" " It could bring about a good discussion in a reading group or book club about the role that fathers play with their children.
This book is divided into sections where each section is a different character telling the story in his/her voice. I learned alot about each character and their families from the different perspectives of each character. In other words, I learned alot about Will from Augie (his 13 yr old granddaughter). And I learned a lot about the teacher Mrs Oliver from her husband's voice, Cal.
I also loved the fact that the setting was a small town where everyone knows everyone else. In fact, the answer to the gunman is found in.........I'm not telling!! You have to read the book!! But it was a GREAT way to find out who the gunman really is!!!
This book is one that I highly recommend for anyone over the age of 17. Although it is an easy read for anyone at a junior high level, I don't recommend books about school shootings to young teens. In fact, I probably wouldn't have read this book if I hadn't already known the author's style and have read her other 2 books. The Weight of Silence (i can't find the book review on my blog but I believe it's the author's first novel) was a book that really stuck with me for a very long time....this one will, too. It is moving.
It will make me pray more for our nation because this fiction is just way too close to reality.
On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.