cover image Alligator Candy: A Memoir

Alligator Candy: A Memoir

David Kushner. Simon & Schuster, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4516-8253-3

In this solemn memoir, journalist Kushner returns to the horrifying murder of his brother in Tampa in 1973. Kushner, only four years old at the time, begged 11-year-old Jonathan to get him candy at the local 7-Eleven and then watched him cycle away into the woods. Jonathan never returned, and his disappearance led to an extraordinary search that apprehended the murderers, two psychopaths who had been stalking children in the area. One of the killers was executed; when the second became eligible for parole, Kushner felt compelled to research and confront the tragedy that he had avoided for so long. The strength of Kushner’s narrative lies in his exploration of how trauma distorts and reshapes even the strongest families. In the wake of Jonathan’s murder, Kushner’s father, a progressive anthropology professor, shifted his research to focus on grief and loss, while his mother helped pioneer hospice care. Yet the family members rarely shared their feelings, and Kushner couldn’t bring himself to write about the murder until after his father’s death. Kushner’s effort to grapple with his loss takes far more space than the actual investigation, and at times, the narrative is unfocused and confusing. Nevertheless, his vivid evocation of his brother, his family, and their Jewish, academic, Southern milieu is a moving tribute. [em](Mar.) [/em]