Sunday, February 4, 2018

And a Little Child Shall Lead Them: Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

Zach is seven years old when his world collapses. A mentally ill man enters his elementary school with a gun. One of those murdered is Zach's ten year old brother Andy, a bright and vivacious child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder whose management had already stressed their parent's marriage. They are unable to agree on anything now: the mother bent on revenge, the father showing understanding of Zach's regression while he goes to work and carries on.

Zach is left on his own to deal with the conflicting feelings he is experiencing. In his secret hideout in Andy's closet he colors his emotions on separate paper; they are easier to handle this way. Red for embarrassment for peeing in bed like a baby. Black for for being scared and the bad dreams at night in which he relives the day of the school shooting. Green, like the Incredible Hulk, for anger. Gray for the sadness, like clouds on a rainy day.

He also returns to his favorite book series in which children learn the secrets of happiness.

Rhiannon's debut novel Only Child is written in Zach's voice, told from his perspective. The adult world feels distant and nearly unmindful of his existence. As adult readers, we understand the hints that pass over Zach's understanding. And we are heartbroken for Zach and for his parents as well.

It is marvelous that Zach is the moral compass of the story. He demonstrates a wisdom that the adults lack; caught up in their own pain they are oblivious to each other's needs. Zach seeks for healing and wholeness, and as the novel ends with Christmas time arrived, he is truly the light which comes to show the way to salvation for his broken family: forgiveness, kindness, thinking of others, and clinging to love.

The journey into the horror of a school shooting resolves by showing us how to live in this world. In the end, I was glad to have read this book, even now in mid-December when others turn to light holiday fare.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through First to Read in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Only Child: A novel
By Rhiannon Navin
Hardcover $25.95
Knopf
Publication Date: Feb 06, 2018
ISBN 9781524733353