Saturday, May 31, 2014

Book 55: Son of a Gun

Winner of the Barnes and Noble First Time Authors award, this book is also responsible for MsWas taking a small break from running the CBR long enough to write a review.  With those two marks in its favor, it was only a matter of time until I read this, and since it also helps me fulfill a requirement for one of my many reading challenges, this seemed like the perfect time.
Unfortunately, while I thought book was strongly written, it didn't move me nearly as much.  Justin St. Germain wrote this book over a decade after his mother's murder.  While he was in college in Tucson, AZ, his stepfather Ray shot and killed his mother in their trailer near Tombstone before disappearing.  A few months later, Ray's body was found, having committed suicide.  The book chronicles Germain's attempts at coming to terms with his mother's death, and her life.  Debbie had a history of failed relationships, though not all of them were abusive.  In fact, most people thought of Ray, her fifth husband, as a good guy, and were surprised by his actions.  Since Ray and Debbie are both dead, there are no answers as to what specifically happened that day in 2001.  Instead, one gets the idea that this is an opportunity for Germain to learn more about his mother's life and the woman he remembers.

While he discusses meeting with two different men that his mother had dated in her past, one of whom had been abusive, none of these really give him clearer understanding of the past.  Debbie comes off as as a strong, capable woman who also picked the wrong men.  After her failed first marriage left her with two sons, she chose to try her luck out west, feeling drawn to Arizona ever since an earlier trip there.  At various points, Germain describes his mother as a successful business woman, while also referring to their life style as white trash.  I thought it was fascinating how both could be true.  She had several successful business ventures, but one gets the idea she would move on out of boredom or due to the next relationship, and by the time she was married to Ray, she occasionally mentions financial issues to her sons.

I think this book is probably a very honest look into the grief process and how humans reconcile the past, but it was not really the type of thing I'm usually drawn to.  Since the author was already in his late teens when his mother died, he already knew his mother.  I'm sure a lot of the things he mentions in the book were things he discovered during his research, but it didn't seem like that with few exceptions.  I think I would have preferred if he'd really talked about the things he learned as he went back and the way people saw his mother, but it felt more like a regular biography of her life intermixed with the history of Tombstone and Wyatt Earp.  Basically, I feel bad because I feel like not liking this more is a judgment of Debbie or Justin St. Germain, but I just didn't find myself that involved with this book.

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