Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Review: Monday Monday

Summary: In this gripping, emotionally charged novel, a tragedy in Texas changes the course of three lives 

On an oppressively hot Monday in August of 1966, a student and former marine named Charles Whitman hauled a footlocker of guns to the top of the University of Texas tower and began firing on pedestrians below. Before it was over, sixteen people had been killed and thirty-two wounded. It was the first mass shooting of civilians on a campus in American history. 

Monday, Monday follows three students caught up in the massacre: Shelly, who leaves her math class and walks directly into the path of the bullets, and two cousins, Wyatt and Jack, who heroically rush from their classrooms to help the victims. On this searing day, a relationship begins that will eventually entangle these three young people in a forbidden love affair, an illicit pregnancy, and a vow of secrecy that will span forty years. Reunited decades after the tragedy, they will be forced to confront the event that changed their lives and that has silently and persistently ruled the lives of their children. 

With electrifying storytelling and the powerful sense of destiny found in Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, and with the epic sweep of Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, Elizabeth Crook’s Monday, Monday explores the ways in which we sustain ourselves and one another when the unthinkable happens. At its core, it is the story of a woman determined to make peace with herself, with the people she loves, and with a history that will not let her go. A humane treatment of a national tragedy, it marks a generous and thrilling new direction for a gifted American writer. -- Sarah Crichton Books

MONDAY MONDAY by Elizabeth Crook begins on a hot Monday afternoon at the University of Texas in 1966. Shelly is leaving her math class when a gunman in the UT tower begins shooting at the people below. He ends up killing 16 people and wounding another 32 in the first college campus shooting in American history.

As soon as the shots were fired, two cousins Wyatt and Jack rush out to help the victims; and Shelly ends up getting shot. Wyatt holds her and comforts her until the emergency vehicles arrive. Naturally, the Jack, Wyatt, and Shelly's lives are forever changed, and even linked, as a result of this tragedy.

Even though Wyatt is married and has a child, he finds himself drawn to Shelly. In what begins as a friendship, these two embark on an illicit affair; and Shelly finds herself pregnant with his baby. Shelly's pregnancy sets into motion some tough choices and a major secret, and these three characters once again find themselves entwined in each other's lives.

After reading the description of MONDAY MONDAY, I had a feeling that I was in for a treat. Given that I love books that follow characters through their lives, I suspected that I might appreciate seeing how a tragedy brought them together for the next 40 or so years. I also like novels that deal with the themes of family, love, friendship, and secrets so that was another plus. I admit, though, that I was worried that the book might be a little melodramatic and over-the-top.

That thought should have never entered my mind. MONDAY MONDAY was a beautifully written novel that touched my heart. I loved the characters that Ms. Crook created, and it was fascinating to see how one horrible event forever linked their lives. In addition, I loved that these characters, especially Shelly, were so real; and while they all changed over the course of the novel, their actions and motivations seemed genuine.

I could rave about many things in MONDAY MONDAY, but for purposes of this "brief" review, I'm going to focus on the writing. This is the first thing that I've read by Ms. Crook, and I was blown away by her storytelling skills. I loved her writing style and how easy this book was to read. I found the harrowing description of the shooting to be utterly gripping, and the novel continued to keep me intrigued. I honestly couldn't put this book down.

I think what really stood out to me about this novel was how much I cared about these characters. I loved their relationships with each other and their other loved ones, and I found them to be so believable. I think that's a testament to the author and how well she created memorable characters. However, it was also the way Ms. Crook delved into the universal themes of love, loss, and how one event can forever change an individual's life that really stuck with me. I don't know if I'm expressing this in the best way, but MONDAY MONDAY made me feel -- and for that reason, I loved it!

MONDAY MONDAY would make a wonderful book club pick. I could delve into the actions of these characters for hours. In addition, the book touches upon so many interesting themes about human nature including love, loss, grief, parent/child relationships, forgiveness, secrets, acceptance, trust, healing, fear, and self-awareness. Because I became so involved in these characters' lives and really cared about them, I know I would appreciation discussing them with my friends.

I thought MONDAY MONDAY was a gem of a book and I highly recommend it fans of literary fiction.

Thanks to FSB Associates for providing a review copy of this novel.


Stacie said...

I have this on my shelf too. It sounds like I better get to it soon. Great review!

Beth Hoffman said...

Wow, terrific review, Julie. You've totally sold me on this one!

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) said...

I'm so looking forward to this one - I've been loving all the "fiction based on true crime" novels this year (Wife, Maid, Mistress and Frog Music) and can't wait to try this one!

bermudaonion said...

I love that time period so this sounds terrific to me!

Unknown said...

I just heard about this book this week. Your review makes me really want to read it. Thanks so much. I'm from TX and while I was a child in 1966 I know a lot of people still talk about the shooting today.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a great book. I hadn't heard of it before now but I've just added it to my wishlist.

I just discovered your blog today, and glad about it! Although my wishlist has grown quite a bit after reading through numerous reviews of yours!

Bits & Bobs