Friday, April 23, 2010

Middletown America by Gail Sheehy

All Americans were hit with some degree of trauma on September 11, 2001, but no place was hit harder than Middletown, New Jersey. Gail Sheehy spent the better part of two years walking the journey from grief toward renewal with fifty members of the community that lost more people in the World Trade Center than any other outside New York City. Her subjects are the women, men, and children who remained after the devastation and who are putting their lives back to-gether.

Another piece of the blurb on the back cover said, "this is a story of hope" and boy, was that true. Sheehy documents such an outpouring of love and support from this community to those who had a loss. It was also a story of human foibles as some of the potential do-gooders weren't able to manage their resources and fulfill what they hoped to do. There was one aspect of the story that didn't sit right. That was the small minority of survivors who felt that the government had betrayed them by not protecting their loved ones and that they deserved substantial compensation. It's hard to articulate exactly what bothered me but I will try. There is a mechanism already in place for compensating people who have a loss - social security and private insurance. It's the mechanism used by people who suffer losses every day from individuals dying a natural death to workers in high-risk occupations like fire fighters and police officers. But some of the survivors thought their loss was the result of governemnt ineptitude and so they deserved more. I assume Sheehy must agree or else she wouldn't have given them such a voice. Maybe an investigation will show a mistake but I haven't heard that yet and it's almost ten years later. I think the government agencies who didn't act on the possibilty of an event like this, probably don't act on hundreds of possible events that we citizens know nothing about. They use the information they can gather to protect us the best they can but we have a very open country and there is no way to detect and deflect everything. Well - that's probably about as much of politics that you'll ever hear out of me! Overall, the book held my interest on audio, I'm quite sure it would have been too dry to read in print. Sheehy gives the large cast of characters qualities that enable the reader/listener to keep track of who's who. The narration was a little flat but it seemed respectful since the subject matter was so somber. Definitely a Kleenex sponsored read - the love and loss shared between the couples, the families, and the community gets very emotional.

This book counts toward the 2010 Audiobook Challenge hosted by the bloggers over at Royal Reviews. Click on the button to see my progress.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

I think I'd have to be in the right mood to listen to this.