The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir by Cylin Busby and John Busby
|The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir by Cylin Busby and John Busby|
|Category: Children's Non-Fiction|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Fascinating true-crime story as a father and daughter remember his shooting. Alternate narration gives great insight and the true costs of violence become very clear. Recommended both as a good read and as pause for thought.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: June 2009|
When my dad dies, his body will go to the Harvard Medical School at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, though I suspect they are mostly interested in his head... His was in an interesting case - the lower half of his jaw was removed when he was shot in the head with a shotgun. His tongue was torn in half, his teeth and gums blown away, leaving a bit of bone that was once his chin connected with dangling flesh at the front of his face.
Erk. Cylin was just nine years old when her father was shot by a local mobster in 1979, and it changed their lives forever. People say that a lot, don't they? Changed their lives forever. I'm not quite sure what it really means. Perhaps it's used so much that it really doesn't mean much at all most of the time. Well, The Year We Disappeared makes it mean something. Told in alternate chapters by father and daughter, and covering the year after John Busby's shooting, it makes the true costs of violence very clear.
Because John Busby survived, the family were still thought to be in danger. And so they were put under 24-hour armed protection. Young readers might initially think that would be exciting as well as frightening, but a few chapters on they'll see it very differently. The grinding boredom suffered by three previously active and boisterous children has negative effects on both their behaviour and their learning at school. Cylin herself is moved to a special class and is ostracised by her friends.
The tension at home is constant. Fear seeps into every pore, and there is simply no outlet for anyone. John Busby struggles to contain his anger, both at his attacker and at the half-hearted investigation into the shooting. It seems mob tentacles reach into and corrupt the police force in whose service he almost died.
It's hard-hitting and very, very tense. Neither Busby shrinks from revealing their darkest moments or innermost thoughts and so this book has absolutely immediate insight. Nothing about this year in the family's life was exciting or special. It was all about fear, anger, and loss. British readers will be shocked at the guns. They're everywhere. The police have them. The mobsters have them. Cylin's mother has one. The boys are taught to shoot at cans and bottles in a scene that seems - aside from Cylin's individual reaction - fairly casual, but is utterly foreign on this side of the pond, and this will provide a springboard for interesting discussion.
It's not all doom and gloom though - ultimately, the Busby family survive this horrific experience because of the commitment and love they have for one another. If there was ever a good argument against violence, this book is it. It's the first true-crime book aimed at teens that I've ever seen, and I think it's great - honest, unflinching, and revelatory. It's graphic and painful to read in places, so I'm recommending it for the early secondary years and up. Heartily recommending.
My thanks to the nice people at Bloomsbury for sending the book.
If they enjoyed reading some non-fiction for once, they might also like Nobody Gonna Turn Me 'Round by Doreen Rappaport, which has the memories of some of the famous people from the US civil rights movement of the 1960s. Fans of all things CSI and true crime will love Crimebusters by Clive Gifford. The best childhood memoir of all-time is, of course Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir by Cylin Busby and John Busby at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir by Cylin Busby and John Busby at Amazon.com.
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