As Wide as the Sky by Jessica Pack
eBook review copy; 352 pages
As Wide as the Sky by Jessica Pack is a recommended,
introspective novel about a woman dealing with the aftermath of a
violence inflicted by her deceased son.
Amanda Mallorie's son, Robbie, has just been put to death after being
convicted for a mass shooting at a mall four years earlier. She is
questioning her every action and trying to reconcile the man who killed
others to the son she lovingly raised. She has been her son's only
support in the last four years, as the doctors tried to get his
medication adjusted and while Robbie refused any more appeals to his
sentence. Now she is planning to move on with her own life while
simultaneously and continuously recalling events of the past.
While finishing the final bits of packing for her move near her daughter
in another state, she opens up a box that was in Robbie's room. It is
full of the flotsam and jetsam of a much younger boy, before all the
troubles began. In the box she finds a class ring that doesn't belong to
Robbie, and, in fact, belonged to someone older. How did Robbie come to
possess this item and why would he keep it? Amanda decides to search
for the owner and return the ring.
Time stamps open each chapter and the extremely slow moving plot
unfolds through the voices of multiple characters. Amanda is the main
character and the novel intensely focuses on her constant introspection
and self-examination. All of her soul searching and reflecting about
Robbie's past became tiresome. Amanda needs some serious counseling, and
beyond the kind she mentioned (How does that make you feel? Write
apology letters...) but some real talk about consequences and boundaries
and how she is not responsible for another person's actions - even
those of a son she raised.
Many of the chapters focus on how Robbie's shooting affected numerous
other people. I couldn't help but wonder if the focus of the plot needed
to be tightened up a bit. Is this Amanda's story about how she is
dealing with her son's actions and any culpability she might shoulder or
is it about how Robbie's violence touched many other lives? Or is it
about Amanda's reflections, seeking closure, and looking for the owner
of the ring? Perhaps it might have helped if, rather than giving many
short chapters to those struggling with the aftermath of Robbie's
violence, Pack allowed Amanda to keep working through how his actions
hurt so many others without having the reader hear from them. Some of
the characters were necessary to follow - but not all of them.
The writing is good. This is not an awful book, although I will freely
admit that the constant introspection from all characters began to
grate. The ending seemed far-fetched to me, but perhaps those who like
romance novels will appreciate it more.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Kensington