Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

They hid in a coat closet, the persistent pop, pop, pop ringing throughout the building. Six-year-old Zach looked to his fellow classmates and teacher for comfort, a sign that the terror they all felt would be short-lived. Zach found solace in his teacher. She clung to her students, silently praying they would make it out alive. In a few short minutes, the gunman who entered their elementary school took 19 lives. One of the children lost was Zach's older brother. 

In the aftermath, young Zach is left grappling with the ramifications of his brother's death. The elder Andy wasn't always kind to his younger sibling. Zach is feeling a mixture of sadness and a guilty relief that he won't have to be tormented by his brother again. His parents aren't emotionally available to help their grieving son. Zach's mother is out for revenge against the family of the shooter. His father can't look at Zach without breaking down. With no adult available to help him process his own state of mind, Zach retreats to his secret hideout in Andy's closet. From this safe space, he wills himself to be the agent of healing for himself, his family, and his community. 

I've struggled to put my reaction to this novel into words. As someone who has worked in schools for the better part of a decade and who has countless friends and family members who teach, I couldn't help but place myself into the horrors that Only Child grapples with. For better or worse, Rhiannon Navin has written a work that is as uniquely American as the tragedy she writes about. The entire narrative is told from the perspective of Zach, giving the reader a first-hand look into the life of a family in the aftermath of gun violence. I was reminded of Jack in Emma Donoghue's Room. As Donoghue did in that novel, Navin uses the innocence of her protagonist to explore the different ways that people deal with grief while also rooting her writing in a character that you can't help but attach to. The result is a novel that is as breathtakingly beautiful as it is heartbreaking. 

As I finished reading the novel, I couldn't help but reflect upon the recent school shooting in Uvalde, TX. I'm a lifelong Texan who grew up around and was taught a healthy respect for guns. That being said, I can't fathom that we have done nothing to stop heinous massacres like this from happening. There are no more excuses. We have to find a way to stop these senseless acts of violence. I don't pretend to have all the answers, though I do think that common-sense firearm legislation and a more comprehensive strategy around mental health in our country would be as good a place as any to begin. I'm certain that in a nation as wealthy and industrious as the United States, there is simply no reason we can't work to solve this problem. Books like Only Child serve to show the devastation that will continue to happen if we do nothing. 

For more information visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads

(2022, 26)


This entry was posted on Monday, June 20, 2022 and is filed under ,,,,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

24 Responses to “Only Child by Rhiannon Navin”

  1. That's some deep subject matter, and sounds a lot like Sandy Hook. Very tragic to see the ripple effects of these awful events.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was an extremely heavy read, but the child being the narrator brought some much needed innocence and hope to everything.

      Delete
  2. I work in an elementary school and we do intruder drills every year now; it's a sad commentary on the state of the world. This book sounds intense and heartbreaking and very compelling. But a hard one to read, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gosh I can't even imagine working in a school anymore. Stuff like this just hits way too close to home.

      Delete
  3. A great review Ethan. I don't think I could have read this one.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. A book like this is a tough read, so I wouldn't expect it to be for everyone.

      Delete
  4. Oh my goodness, a six year old? It does reflect reality, but what a heartbreaking (realistic) premise.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is so sad that this is a reality to so many families.

      Delete
  5. It really feel like authors have to tread carefully when writing on subjects like this and I feel like this is a really strong book! Made me, indeed, think about what recently happened in Texas. Of, course you feel for the lives that are lost, but because of this novel you might also feel for the families that lost a loved one! I'm so, so curious about this book now, even though I'm not sure if I wanna read it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that is what stuck with me the most. We hear about these events and then move onto the next thing. For the families of those involved, it is a life changing event that impacts them for years to come. I can't recommend this book highly enough.

      Delete
  6. Sounds like a profound read and one that's so relevant right now. You'd think the US should be able to come up with some common sense solutions. Unfortunately, doesn't seem like this government can agree on anything!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right? You would think the lives of children would be a priority for our legislators, but it seems they are more concerned with staying in power.

      Delete
  7. That sounds like a really hard read. I can't even imagine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is incredibly tough subject matter, but an extremely profound read.

      Delete
  8. Oh wow, this book sounds like a painful but powerful read, especially with the shooting in Uvalde having just happened. I've been watching the actions of the Senate this week as they work on possible gun control legislation and I just pray that they will truly work together to come up with something that will pass because you're right, something has got to change.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm really hopeful that this time something, and I really mean anything at all, will be done.

      Delete
  9. No child should have to experience this or anyone. This sounds like it tackles all aspects, including the aftermath.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was really thorough, but also extremely empathetic.

      Delete
  10. This sounds like such a powerful and emotional book.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I thought I commented on this one, hope it did not somehow get lost or sent to spam. I don't know that I could read this one, especially as a teacher who has experienced lockdowns - both real and in practice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Having worked in schools and experienced those lock downs too, this one definitely hit closer to home than I was prepared for. Still, the power of the characters and the journey they take emotionally made it well worth the read for me.

      Delete

Powered by Blogger.