Testimony by Anita Shreve
Publication: Little Brown
Publication Date: 10/21/2008
324 pages paperback
At an exclusive New England Boarding School, a sex scandal unleashes a storm of shame and recrimination.
The men, women, and teenagers affected--among them the headmaster, struggling to contain the incident before it destroys the school; a popular student-athlete, grappling with the consequences of his mistakes; the boys mother, confronting her own forbidden temptations; and a troubled teenage girl eager to put the past behind her--speak out to relate the events of one fateful night and its aftermath.
Enter a world upended by the repercussions of a single impulsive action.....
Shreve is very good at tearing the cover off of our hidden emotions and presumptions, making us question our judgments. This was a difficult book at times and very emotional. Working with teenagers is stressful, and precarious at times, but also a delight. As I was reading this book I kept thinking about how it speaks to the fact that most teenagers (and often adults) don't realize the significance of one little act on their lives.
In this story many lives are changed forever by one impulsive act-lives lost, dreams shattered, and innocence lost. Wouldn't it be worth it to examine this idea and maybe create some understanding that even though choices were made, everyone was a victim as well as a perpetrator? Shreve makes it very clear that there are no easy answers-and maybe that it is almost entirely impossible to examine every issue that this situation uncovered.
Recently, I came across another review where Shreve was criticized for not developing a storyline that examined the young girl's underlying issues that help lead her to act out. Shreve does not make judgment statements in her work, the book shares the perspective from several of the characters involved and opens the door into the way they have personally handled the situation, and the tragedy that ensues.
The stream of consciousness flow of some of the characters made this a little bit tougher to get into at the beginning, especially that of the young girl, Sienna. But once the story got underway it was hard to put the book down. Shreve slowly led you into an understanding of who would die, and why, so that it was not a surprise. There was only one piece of information she held until the last, with few hints. Who held the camera?
Shreve's writing is terrific as usual, her characterization is believable and well done, the story is gripping, and well you definitely walk away with much to think about. I have not always been drawn into Anita Shreve's books, but when I am I find that I really enjoy it and love the questions that she leaves me with. Reading a book that makes me question some of my own presumptions is one of my favorite past times.
This is a terrific book for book clubs. So much to talk about, so much to examine. Enjoy!
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