About this book…
We went to school that Tuesday like normal.
Not all of us came home . . .
Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, six-year-old Zach can hear shots ringing through the corridors of his school. A gunman has entered the building and, in a matter of minutes, will have taken nineteen lives.
In the aftermath of the shooting, the close knit community and its families are devastated. Everyone deals with the tragedy differently. Zach’s father absents himself; his mother pursues a quest for justice — while Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and drawing.
In the end, though, it is Zach who will show the adults in his life the way forward – as, sometimes, only a child can.
Narrated by Zach, Only Child is heartbreaking, powerful and redemptive, and will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.
I had seen so many reviews of this book that glowed with praise for its intuitive understanding and understated delivery of what is one of the most horrific things that can happen to a parent. So I knew that I had to read it even though I knew that the subject matter was going to be a tough one for me and I totally agree with those rave reviews! The publication of this book even came at a time when there was yet another mass murder of children who should have been in the most protective environment for them after their own home…their school. In the aftermath of that real life event it was impossible not to be moved by the stories that came out and the reaction of the children left alive who are now fighting to achieve changes to the law to keep themselves and their fellow students safe. So it was with their determination in my mind that I ventured into what I knew was going to be an upsetting storyline for me. But I knew that as a parent I just had to read about this family affected by the loss of their child by a school shooter.
Told entirely by Zach who becomes the “Only Child” of the title after his troublesome brother is one of the students murdered in a mass shooting, this journey was far less harrowing than I was expecting and I think that’s because in a way we are shielded from the horrors of what happened. We see the events as though blinkered, our eyes only following Zachs eyes and seeing the after affects with the reduced understanding that an small child would have. What broke my heart more than anything was the way in which his parents reacted after the shooting and how desperate this child was to make sense of what had happened to completely shatter his life. Grief affects us all in totally different ways so I can’t condemn his mother for fixing her grief on her effects to get justice for the death of her elder son or his father for being unable to face up to what happened but I just wanted to put Zach in front of them and shout “this is your priority now!!!”
Using a child to explain how the aftermath affected the family meant that things Zach didn’t understand were actually quite clear to us as adults, even though his unreliable narration made it impossible at times to maintain a balanced viewpoint. And I found this actually made it much easier for me to read without becoming overemotional. The innocence of children makes them see things in black and white which made me think in turn, about how as adults things are never that easy for us. I think this is why children grieve differently to adults and that we can learn a lot from their responses compared to our own.
I became completely engrossed in this tale of a family brought to breaking point by their grief and also their guilt at certain responses they had. It’s a beautifully written book, perfectly pitched without overdramatising the families situation and it left me feeling hopeful for the world we live in even in its darkest hour.
Definitely a book I will recommend to others and an author with a great future ahead of her!
Only Child: An Incredibly Powerful Novel You Can’t Put Down is available to purchase now from Amazon UK (affiliates link) My review copy came from the publisher Mantle Books.
Meet the author…
German by birth, Rhiannon Navin now lives in New York. She is married, with three children and two cats. This is her first novel.