Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Difficult Books

I couldn’t say I enjoyed reading One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Åsne Seierstad.  Her book is about Anders Breivik, who in 2011 detonated a bomb outside the prime minister’s office in Oslo killing eight people and then made his way to Utøya, an island youth camp where he slowly and methodically shot and killed sixty-nine people, mostly teenagers.  Not exactly happy time reading. 

But a book I would highly recommend.  Why do tragedies like this happen?  We want to understand what could possibly make a person do something as horrible as a Columbine or the Aurora movie theatre shooting.  Or the massacre in Norway.  Reading about the pain and suffering of the victims and their families isn’t easy.  There were times when I had to put the book down and walk away from it.

 Ms. Seierstad is a well-known journalist and a wonderful writer.  There is a great deal of detail in One of Us – the lives of some of the victims as well as the sad life of Anders Breivik.  When Breivik was very young, his family was observed by the Centre for Child Care and Adolescent Psychiatry and it was suggested he be removed from his family and sent to stable foster care.  One of many "what ifs" that could have prevented the massacre.

The short prologue of the book takes place on Utøya where teenagers are fleeing from Breivik.  We don’t come back till that terrible day until page 272 (it’s 500+ pages).  By then we’ve met many of the victims and the prologue becomes clearer and even more heartbreaking.  One of Us is never exploitative and very respectful to everyone involved, including Breivik’s parents.  Yes, One of Us was a tough read, but in the end it felt like a tribute to the lives lost on that terrible day.    

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