Wednesday, July 25, 2018

As Wide as the Sky

As Wide as the Sky by Jessica Pack
Kensington: 7/31/18
eBook review copy; 352 pages
paperback ISBN-13: 9781496718167

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 via Netgalley.

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