If we had known
Book - 2018
English professor Maggie Daley and her college-student daughter struggle with guilt, fear, and the dangerous bonds of family in the aftermath of a mass shooting in their small New England town. When it is revealed that the gunman had been one of Maggie's students, she questions whether the dark, violence-tinged essay he wrote in her freshman comp seminar have been a warning. Should-- or could-- she have done something?
When Maggie, a dedicated English professor, hears a radio bulletin about a shooting in the nearby mall, it isn't long before she recognizes the shooter as one of her former students. When another former student posts online about the shooter's peculiar behavior in her classroom, Maggie finds herself at the center of the community's fury as her own feelings of guilt begin to undermine her neat and orderly life. The situation puts her daughter, already struggling with anxiety and eating disorders, on edge, just as she's leaving for college, and the student who authored the incriminating Facebook post finds his own anxiety level ballooning as well. Through the all-too-familiar terrain of this modern-day tragedy, Juska (The Blessings, 2014) explores the growing issue of anxiety among today's youth, asking readers to consider the ways in which our actions have increasingly far-reaching impact. Switching between viewpoints, Juska contrasts the actions of a split second and the slow burn of a lifetime of behavior to show that both can have extensive, damning consequences that are rarely foreseen. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.Review by Library Journal Reviews
Longtime English professor Maggie Daley teaches an introductory course required of all freshmen, in which students write about themselves, often revealing life-changing events and current struggles. Maggie has occasionally picked up on clues from troubled students, even preventing at least one suicide. When she learns that a former student has gone on a shooting rampage at the local mall, she recalls him as distant, cold, and unplugged in class. Searching through her records, she finds an essay he wrote that included minute descriptions of the many different kinds of weapons that could be used in hunting. Did the paper reveal problems she should have picked up on? Could she have done something then to prevent the shooting now? VERDICT Presenting realistic characters, Juska (The Blessings) explores the aftermath of a violent event in a story that successfully speaks to issues of gun violence, the rise of anxiety in young people, the use and abuse of social media, and the role of educators today, capturing human vulnerability and the impact of tragedy on survivors. Recommended for general fiction readers. [See Prepub Alert, 10/16/17.]—Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence Copyright 2018 Library Journal.Review by PW Annex Reviews
An incident as timely as the day's headlines—a mall shooting that leaves five dead, including the gunman—catalyzes the plot of this compassionate, searching novel. When Nathan Dugan, an engineering student at Central Maine State, shoots four people before turning the gun on himself, people in his social orbit ponder whether they overlooked warning signs. Luke Finch, who shared a class with him four years before, posts a Facebook remembrance of Nathan as a weird loner. When it goes viral, Nathan's freshman composition professor, Maggie Daley, comes under scrutiny for overlooking a paper in which Nathan fetishized guns and hunting. Juska (The Blessings) explores the characters' ensuing efforts to assign blame and their damaging impact on the lives of Maggie; her anxiety-prone daughter, Anna; Nathan's mother; and others. The novel also expertly depicts the way in which, in the wake of a public tragedy, the echo chamber effect of the internet (including a harmful YouTube video) and social media easily convert speculation and supposition into damning "fact." Although some of the peripheral characters only exist to serve the plot, Juska's novel is moving and memorable in its portrayal of people unexpectedly involved in devastating events. (Apr.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly Annex.
In the wake of a mass shooting in their small New England mall, English professor Maggie begins to suffer overwhelming guilt and the suspicion of her community when she learns that the gunman was a former student who once wrote an essay hinting at his violent nature. 25,000 first printing.Review by Publisher Summary 2
English professor Maggie Daley and her college-student daughter struggle with guilt, fear, and the dangerous bonds of family in the aftermath of a mass shooting in their small New England town. When it is revealed that the gunman had been one of Maggie'sstudents, she questions whether the dark, violence-tinged essay he wrote in her freshman comp seminar have been a warning. Should-- or could-- she have done something?Review by Publisher Summary 3
English professor Maggie Daley and her college-student daughter struggle with guilt, fear, and the dangerous bonds of family in the aftermath of a mass shooting in their small New England town when it is revealed that the gunman had been one of Maggie's students.Review by Publisher Summary 4
A literary tour de force from the acclaimed author of The Blessings-a riveting novel about one of the most urgent crises of our time. One August afternoon, as single mother Maggie Daley prepares to send her only child off to college, their world is shattered by news of a mass shooting at the local mall in rural Maine. As reports and updates about the tragedy begin to roll in, Maggie, an English professor, is further stunned to learn that the gunman had been a student of hers: Nathan Dugan was an awkward, complicated young man whose quiet presence in her classroom had faded from her memory-but not, it seems, the memories of his classmates. When a viral blog post hints at the existence of a dark, violence-tinged essay Nathan had written during Maggie's freshman comp seminar, Maggie soon finds herself at the center of a heated national controversy. Could the overlooked essay have offered critical red flags that might have warned of, or even prevented, the murders to come? As the media storm grows around her, Maggie makes a series of desperate choices that threaten to destroy not just the personal and professional lives she's worked so hard to build, but-more important-the happiness and safety of her sensitive daughter, Anna. Engrossing and provocative, combining sharp plot twists with Juska's award-winning, trademark literary sophistication, If We Had Known is at once an unforgettable mother-daughter journey, an exquisite portrait of a community in turmoil, and a harrowing examination of ethical and moral responsibility in a dangerously interconnected digital world.