Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Fall Reading Challenge 2014: Stillwater Rising by Steena Holmes #FRC2014

This fall, members of the Vise Library are going back to school by participating in a Fall Reading Challenge. We have received copies of several books from publishers for honest reviews. We hope that you enjoy these reviews (and books)!

The book for our Family Studies class is Stillwater Rising by Steena Holmes.

About the book:

After losing her son in an elementary school shooting that devastates the tight-knit community of Stillwater Bay, Jennifer Crowne finds herself unable to settle back into her role of perfect stay-at-home mom and committee organizer. Meanwhile, her best friend, Mayor Charlotte Stone, struggles to keep the town together, and Charlotte’s husband, the school principal, may not be the hero everyone thinks him to be.

As they try to heal from this irrevocable trauma, Jenn and Charlotte find themselves at a crossroads—within the town and within their friendship. For Jenn, broken and grieving, there is no going back, and she demands that the school be closed so that she can bury the past. Yet Charlotte is equally desperate to hold the town together, fighting the school closure and helping the shooter’s mother regain her place in the community. Jenn and Charlotte’s relationship is put to the ultimate test as each weighs her own interests against the bonds of their friendship.

This book tells the stories of a town dealing with the aftermath of an all too real tragedy.  The book is set a month after a deadly shooting at an elementary school in Stillwater Bay.  Several young kids were shot and killed, along with a few teachers.  The plot centers (mostly) around Jenn, who lost her son in the shooting, and Charlotte, who is the mayor of the small town.  They are best friends, but because they see differently about what should happen to the school and to the town to recover, their friendship is being tested.  

Everyone grieves differently and this book shows this.  Jenn cannot believe that the school where children were murdered is being used.  Jenn's husband is dealing with his grief in his own way.  Because the two of them are not grieving exactly alike, this is creating tension.  It also makes the other feel like they aren't grieving at all.  Charlotte thinks closing the school is detrimental to the town.   Her husband is the principal of the school and does not seem to be worried that the school could close.  He has his own grief to deal with.  Everyone paints him as a hero since he was able to get the attention of the gunman, who was a young man himself, to stop the rampage.  He does not want to accept the hero status and there is a reporter in town trying to figure out if he has a secret.  There is also the grief of the woman (Julia) whose son killed all of those people.  Her son, Gabriel, kills himself in the massacre and she has her own grief to deal with.  People are mad at her because of her son.  People are vandalizing her home, which makes her not want to leave her house.  Julia also doesn't feel like she can visit her son's grave since other people will be mourning their children while she is there.  The treatment of Julia and whether the town can make her leave divides the town in half.

This book had a very interesting perspective on the different types of grief.  In our world this scenario is not unknown, but what the parents and town go through is not something that we can grasp ourselves.  I think Holmes gave every character their own voice and she does it well.  Do we think about what the parents of the person responsible are going through?  Is it really their "fault" that this happened?  In this book everyone seemed to try to help Gabriel, but in the end it did not do any good.  Everyone feels like they are to blame in some way.  Jenn saw Gabriel enter the school but was too wrapped up in something to really pay attention.  Men in the town tried to be his father figure but they aren't able to stop him from doing this.  I also found the relationship between Jenn and Charlotte interesting.  Because Charlotte doesn't have any children of her own, she cannot grasp the anger that Jenn has.  It makes you think about if Jenn is justified in her anger and if Charlotte is justified in putting the town first.  You also find out there is a line to that anger that some people probably shouldn't cross, but maybe they just can't help it.  In this book some people look to religion for comfort and some people even lose their religion to cope.   I really enjoy books that make you think and Stillwater Rising is one of those books.  It appears that there will be another book to this story and I want to find out what happens to these characters!  This isn't a fluff of a book (not that this is a bad thing!) but it really makes you wonder and sympathize even with people that have actually gone through something this horrific.  

There is also a novella that Steena has written that is a prequel to this book.  It is worth mentioning that the proceeds from this novella will be donated to to stop school violence.

Buy the book:
·        Amazon Kindle:
·        Amazon Paperback:

About the author:

With a passion for storytelling, Steena Holmes took her dream of being a full-time writer and made it a reality, writing her first novel while working as a receptionist. She won the National Indie Excellence Book Award in 2012 for her bestselling novel Finding Emma. Steena currently lives in Calgary, Alberta, with her husband, three daughters, and two dogs. She likes to celebrate completing each new novel with chocolate.

Connect with the author:
·        Facebook:
·        Twitter:
·        Website:
·        Goodreads:

If you want to find out more about the Fall Reading Challenge and the rest of our course schedule, click our student ID above!

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