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Monday, April 6, 2015

Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder

What drives someone -- a nice, normal-seeming someone -- to a brutal and unfathomable murder? Especially when he is someone you know well? This is Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder by Amy Butcher. 

One spring night about a month before graduation, Kevin walks Amy home from the bar. She happily drifts off to sleep, dreaming of her new job offer, while Kevin goes home just up the block and murders his girlfriend, stabbing her 27 times. What drives someone to murder? If your friend did this kind of heinous act just hours after leaving you, would you blame yourself? Worry for your own safety? Wish you had done something differently? In this candid memoir, Amy Butcher explores the aftermath of the crime affecting those left behind -- those not directly involved, but those forever affected by the actions of one young man. 

My feelings on this book wavered back and forth throughout the reading. I obviously picked this book up because I am fascinated by true crime, and the psychological underpinnings of someone being present right before the crime was committed was a fascinating prospect for me. I was very much looking forward to the personal account of Butcher, but I wasn't entirely prepared for what at times came across as a self-focused piece. I am not under any circumstances minimizing what she went through, as I can't even imagine how this would begin to affect me. I am a highly empathetic person and often carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, and so I fear that a similar situation would break me. In a way, it broke Butcher and those in her circle. I appreciate her openness in writing this book, and talking about how it affected her as a bystander. We all know that this kind of incident affected the family of Emily as well as Kevin and his family. But what about those on the sidelines? What about those who continuously wonder, "What if?" What if I had reached out that night? What if I had reached out more? What if I had just said something differently? What if? I can imagine that these feelings are somewhat akin to what the survivors of suicide ask themselves. I can understand this – I've been there. Only this time, it's far more brutal in scope.

I really appreciated Butchers exploration of her feelings, but I also wanted to know more about Kevin. I understand that he was just coming off of antidepressants, but I want to know more of his side of the story. Granted, after reading this book, I realize that's not the purpose of it. This was about her communication with him after his incarceration when no one else was there. She was the only one of his friends to keep in touch with him, and really only one of the few besides his immediate family. I wanted them to talk about everything, not just the surface level things that were keeping them both busy in their respective lives. I wanted Amy to be honest with him about her macabre sense of duty, and I wanted Kevin to be honest with her about their final in-person encounter. Alas, this is only briefly touched on at the end before we find out whether or not their relationship will actually continue into the future.

I would like to see the story revisited in 10 or 15 years, after Kevin has served more time and Amy has more of her adult life under her belt. I want to know how she continues to deal with her PTSD, and I want to know whether or not Kevin decides that be honest with his friends is more important then feeling ashamed. I guess we'll just need to wait and see won't we?

For purchase below. 

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