Because we live in the United States, the psychological dimensions of John Englehardt's debut novel, Bloomland, are familiar. In a small Arkansas college town, a weirdo white guy with psychological issues steals his roommate's semiautomatic rifle, walks into the school library, and murders 12 people. In high-quality, almost incantatory literary prose, Englehardt's narrator examines the lives of the killer, the victims, the bereaved, the town, and himself in an attempt to find honest answers to frustratingly routine questions: Why did this shooting happen? Who is responsible? And what happens next? Englehardt finds surprising details in this tragically typical narrative. He describes first responders noticing cell phones ringing all at once in the pockets of the dead—friends and family members calling to see if their loved one is okay. He describes a huge shed full of donated teddy bears, a pretty big waste-management issue and a poignant symbol of the disconnect between the response to gun violence and the actual needs of the bereaved.
by Rich Smith
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