cover image Madman: Life Next Door to the Unabomber

Madman: Life Next Door to the Unabomber

Jamie Gehring. Diversion, $27.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-63576-816-9

Gehring’s arresting debut recounts how she has tried to reconcile her memories of her bucolic childhood in Lincoln, Mont., sharing a backyard with a friendly hermit, with the later revelations that the hermit, Ted Kaczynski, who held her as a baby and gave her painted rocks as a child, was, in fact, the Unabomber. For 16 years she had no idea that Kaczynski, though often erratic and reclusive, was the nation’s longest running domestic terrorist, using bombs to kill three and maim 23 people from 1978 to 1995. It wasn’t until Kaczynski published his manifesto in September 1995 that his own brother realized he was the likely bomber. The FBI recruited Gehring’s father to spy on him and aid in the operation that led to his arrest in 1996. Only then did the author realize that her entire childhood had been lived in the shadow of danger: by Kaczynski’s own account, he had poisoned her dog, sabotaged her father’s sawmill, and once almost murdered her stepmother and baby sister. In 2017, Gehring began researching this book and even wrote to Kaczynski, but his reply changed nothing. It was like the man himself, both superficial and only hinting at the rage below the surface. Gehring’s insights into the life and mind of a madman make fascinating reading for true crime fans. Agent: Joseph Perry, Perry Literary. (Apr.)