Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Jodi Picoult's "Nineteen Minutes" was a powerful book for me. It wasn't grand literature of the Austen/Steinbeck vein, but it was powerful for me nonetheless.
The story deals with a shooting rampage at a high school, seen through the eyes of several people in the town affected by it; a police office, a judge, a victim, the shooter's parents, the shooter himself.
The book flashes backwards and forwards in time. You see the kids in preschool, then you're back in the present. Back and forth. It's painful to see the shooter, Peter, as a young child. It's painful to see the experiences that shaped him to what he became. It's crazy, but you almost have empathy for him. Almost.
You see how hard several parents try to be the best parent, to give the best advice, be the best role models, and you see how miserably they fail. You don't know you've raised a bully, a geek, a slut, a brainiac, a killer.
It's frightening how close to the heart Picoult digs in this way. I found myself crying throughout the book, wondering "What If?" What if, no matter how hard I try, it turns out horribly wrong. You can only guide them so much, but will you catch the signs in time? Is it possible to?
It deals with their teens and their struggles to define who they are, how huge their problems seem to be to them at that moment in their lives.
Am I liked, who am I, why is he dating me, can I leave him, why is he like this to me?
Why do they pick on me, why can't they leave me alone?
I wanted to tell them that it would be over soon, promise. It's only one small portion of your life. Blink, and you're 40. Don't let it get to you. My highschool days were really painless. Are they for my son? Would he even tell me?
"Nineteen Minutes" (named for the time it took the shooter to go through his school on his spree) is like a mirror we parents really don't want to stare into too much.