also published as A thousand cuts
This is the story of a school shooting. A teacher walks into assembly and kills four people, three students and a teacher, he then commits suicide. Lucia May is the police officer who is supposed to “wrap up” the investigation and file it under psycho teacher, terrible tragedy, nothing anyone could have done. But instead she finds herself returning again and again to the school, and trying to figure out why it happened. How this mild-mannered history teacher could have had so much violence in him.
I picked this book up on impulse at work. I think we got it in because it was nominated for an award, or maybe it was an Amazon Rising Star, I can’t quite recall. Whatever the reason I’m glad I did because it is an extremely well written book. I’m not quite sure if you would actually call it a mystery/detective novel, because there is no whodunnit, although I did see it called a whydunnit instead.
On the surface this is a book about one man going on a shooting spree. But it is really all about bullying, and maybe the US title of A thousand cuts is more indicative of that. (But at the same time the UK title, Rupture relates to how the teacher was pushed to breaking point before the shooting.) How bullying can become endemic in a school or workplace, and how the victims are somehow seen as to be blamed for not doing enough to stand up to or stop the bullies.
It is also written in an interesting way, different chapters are told in different voices, the majority from May’s point of view, but alternated with that are her interviews with different witnesses, told as though the reader was listening to the tape recording of their answers. It is surprisingly effective.
And heartbreaking in places. Especially when we all know that there are children out there being driven to suicide by bullying, and how we are all well aware that for some people the bullying continues into the workplace. Sometimes it remains just about the bully having someone to push around, sometimes it is about sexual politics and power. And for the bullied there is little chance of any respite, especially when those in authority refuse to acknowledge the problem and those who want to help are unable.
Because the only help that was on offer was no help at all. Elliot had been wise to the reality in which he was caught. His parents were well meaning but ineffectual. His friends, if he had any, were probably just as well meaning but weak. There was the school of course; just as for Lucia there was the chain of command. But like Lucia, Elliot had known better than to even try.
f U ask any1 4 hlp we wiL burn yor hows.
More than alone, Elliot had been forsaken. Why should he have had to ask for help? Why had help not been forthcoming? It was no secret, after all. Those who had the power to intervene: they knew. Why was the onus always on the weak when it was the strong who had the liberty to act? Why were the weak obliged to be so brace when the strong had licence to behave like such cowards?