Only Child by Rhiannon Navin, is narrated through the voice of Zach, a first grade boy who hides in a closet with his teacher and classmates while a lone gunman begins shooting people in his elementary school. In the aftermath of the shooting, once 19 people are pronounced dead, we are taken through a captivating emotional journey, hearing not only Zach’s thoughts, but those overheard conversations of his parents. The family’s lives are torn apart and put back together as they each try in various ways to heal from this tragedy. Zach’s mother is bent on exacting revenge from the shooter’s family, his father retreats into his work, and Zach is ignored and left to feel alone with his thoughts and feelings.
After reading other works of fiction about school shootings, Only Child’s perspective through the eyes of 6-year-old Zach is heartbreaking, poignant, and insightful. At times, some of Zach’s thoughts and conversations seem well beyond his years, but his perspective allowed me to overlook this fault and enjoy the book. I listened to the audiobook and read the physical book, alternating between the two formats. The young male narrator, Kivlighan de Montebello, is excellent and helped bring Zach’s viewpoint and feelings to life.
Rhiannon Navin’s debut novel is exceptional. While the subject matter may be difficult to read, Only Child is a beautiful story that shows that not only do parents suffer loss, but children do too when tragedy strikes. The ending of the book is hopefully and gives insight into a child’s resilience and desire to make things right in the world.