Principal Mark Kurtz has devoted his life to his students and making sure that they have everything they need to succeed in life. But it isn’t always enough. Mark let down his students, his community, and himself when he failed a student needing help. On a Thursday morning in May, this student, who displayed no warning signs, mowed down several other students and faculty members while attending a graduation rehearsal. This story is the aftermath of this event.
As the book opens, Mark is dealing with his feelings of failure – mainly through the numbing effects of a bottle of alcohol. The divorced father of a high school-aged son, Max, Mark knows he needs to pull himself together as the school year is just around the corner. But as the first day of school draws nearer, Mark realizes that going back to school this fall isn’t going to be ordinary in any way…especially when he can’t manage to force himself to go anywhere near where the event occurred.
Lane Warner is a psychologist whose been hired by the school committee to help those affected by the trauma. He practically donated his services after hearing that this tragedy occurred at the high school run by his college roommate and former lover, Mark. After conferring with Mark’s ex-wife, Lane knows that Mark needs him – whether or not Mark wants to admit it.
Nearly twenty years ago, Mark turned his back on Lane when he decided that he needed to be “normal” if he wanted to succeed in his career. Now Lane is back, and Mark’s frustration is evident as he is forced to deal with what he thought he had buried. With his son asking questions about Dr. Warner, Mark finds himself continuing to hide his true self, until details begin to emerge about what exactly happened to the young man who sought revenge on his classmates.
I thought this book was amazing. I was drawn into this story within the first few pages and stayed up way past bedtime in order to finish it because I couldn’t put it down. Though it is a difficult subject matter, I thought the author handled it in a way that didn’t come across as exploitative. The actual “shooting” incident is in flashback format in Mark’s point of view. I also liked that the author humanized the shooter. In many cases it gets pushed under the rug that these shooters are real humans with real problems, and, as in this case, they do something completely out of character when they no longer know how to deal with the problem.
Mark’s son Max and his relationship with his best friend, Jinks, play a prominent role in the story. As classmates and friends of the shooter, they are dealing with their own guilt about what had happened that day and trying to come to terms with their own fears about returning to school.
As a story about the aftermath about what happens to a community when a tragedy, such as this, strikes, I have to say I was riveted to my seat and couldn’t put the book down. As a romance, I felt it played a backseat role to everything else going on. I would have liked to have seen more of Mark outside of this whole façade that he has going where he is still in the closet in public, but out at home. Other than some steamy sex scenes between the two, I wasn’t really feeling the connection outside of the bedroom between these two for most of the book. Unfortunately, by the time that Mark is ready to be who he truly is, the book is ending. So, I would have liked to have seen something more to give me that “happily ever after” feeling.
Overall, I really liked this book and would recommend it to anyone who can handle the subject matter of dealing with the aftermath of a school shooting. Highly recommend.