Bloomland

John Englehardt. Dzanc, $26.95 (200p) ISBN 978-1-945814-93-8
Englehardt’s potent debut opens on a quiet day at Ozarka University in Arkansas, as a gunman opens fire in the crowded library, leaving 12 dead and many more wounded. The arc of the tragedy—the lives it interrupts and the ruin left in its wake—follows three characters: Eddie, an adjunct English professor at Ozarka whose wife, Casey, is killed in the shooting; Rose, one of Eddie’s undergraduate students, with a history of trauma; and Eli, the shooter himself. The story is told in the second person about the three main characters, narrated by Dr. Bressinger, a creative writing professor who is friends with Eddie and taught Eli. Eddie’s attempts to salvage his faltering marriage and Rose’s attempts to become at ease with herself are disrupted by the shooting, which drives them both into socially isolating grief. And Eli’s fatalistic nihilism proves untenable in prison. Engelhardt manages to avoid romanticizing Eli’s condition, but the reader is left with a void as to his motivations. “Something was missing,” Eli states, years after the shooting, “and the shooting was my way of trying to get it back.” Though it may leave some readers unsatisfied, it feels like an apt final chord in a story centered around a mass shooting. Englehardt’s debut poses timely, difficult questions. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 10/04/2019
Release date: 09/01/2019
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-68457-669-2
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