cover image Newtown: An American Tragedy

Newtown: An American Tragedy

Matthew Lysiak. S&S/Gallery, $25.99 (266p) ISBN 978-1-4767-5374-4

Lysiak, a journalist for the New York Daily News, offers a comprehensive, moving account of the massacre which took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on December 14, 2012. Drawing on police documents, interviews, emails and other public records, he reconstructs the events which ultimately cost 28 lives, most of them children, and shattered a community. He pieces together a portrait of the killer, Adam Lanza, as a deeply damaged individual with numerous psychological and emotional issues, offering a chilling look at Lanza's background and contributing factors, including his mother's ill-fated attempts to encourage his passions. Lysiak loses some of his detachment and impartiality when he moves on to cover the incident and aftermath; here, he takes pains to play up the heroism and innocence of the victims, the pain of the families, and the trauma of a community. Readers will be hard-pressed to deny the raw emotional gut-punch of simple statements like "Olivia was going to play an angel." Extensive excerpts from speeches and eulogies further add to the weight of the narrative. However, once Lysiak delves into the volatile debate between mental health care and gun control, both hot topics after every such incident, it becomes clear that he has no true answers or grand messages, just the same "what ifs?" as everyone else. With better focus and less emotional manipulation, this could have been the definitive volume on the subject; instead, it falls somewhat short. Agent: Sharlene Martin, Martin Literary Management. (Dec.)