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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Son of a Gun: A Memoir

I love off-beat family memoirs. They make me realize that my family at least put the "fun" in "dysfunctional." This is Justin St. Germain's Son of a Gun.

Justin is in college and living with his older brother when they receive a phone call that their mother is dead--shot in her home. Their stepfather is missing, later found dead in a suicide. Justin finds himself in a tailspin of grief in the immediate aftermath. His mother was his rock and gave him everything he could possible need in his childhood. In adulthood, Justin goes on a search to find out what happened that night. This involves looking back into his mother's past, rooting through her previous four marriages, and seeking out answers in the investigation that he never knew prior. What he finds both surprises him and doesn't, leading him to a kind of acceptance that will allow him to push forward in life.

This was a good read. It's split into two parts; the first part immediately follows news of Debbie's death and the months that follow. She was killed days after 9/11, warranting only a blip on the news. St. Germain pours out his pain on the page, painting a vivid picture of what it is like to lose a parent who played such a large role in his life. He recognized the sacrifices his mother made for him and his brother, and his loyalty and care is so deeply interwoven in the words he used to describe his pain over this loss.

The second part of the book occurs almost a decade later as Justin finds himself preparing to move in with the love of his life and beginning a book about his mother's death. His search for answers leads him to meetings he never envisioned happening, and the mix of emotions that occur over this months-long search for answers is raw and palpable. In one scene, he visits a support group for family members of murder victims and it's almost too much for him. Who else could understand such hurt?

The murder occurred in Tombstone, the tourist town famous for the shootout at the O.K. Corral. St. Germain weaves in the history of Wyatt Earp and the events of the time with the story of his mother's murder as he understands it. It was an interesting comparison to his own personal pain, and one that humanized his desperate need for answers--to begin to make sense of something that just doesn't, and may never.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

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