A Silence of Mockingbirds:
The Memoir of a Murder.
Karen Spears Zacharias
Hardback: MacAdam/Cage, 2012.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]
Reviewed by Matt Miles.
I knew two things about the subject of Karen Spears Zacharias’ new book A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder going in: it was about the brutal murder of an innocent child, and this murder was preventable. This wasn’t going to be light reading, but I knew it was necessary. Especially as a former educator, I felt the weight of responsibility to see signs of abuse others had missed. This wouldn’t be pleasant, but hopefully it would be informative and in that sense, redemptive.
The explanation of the title at the beginning didn’t allay my suspicions of a heavy read. Citing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the book begins by explaining mockingbirds’ tendency to stand up to any predator regardless of size. Sadly, this posture does not ensure success for the mockingbird. From this starting point, the reader faces the grim reality that the people with the most power to protect three year old Karly Sheehan failed to do so.
I should note at this point that while it’s difficult to call such a sobering work as this uplifting, my fears of it being depressing were unwarranted. “Depressing” hauls the heavy baggage of making the reader fall in love with sadness and even despair with no greater point. I’d also include in this category books that make the reader angry just for the emotions’ sake. There is deep sadness in Mockingbirds, and it evokes anger, but there is a greater point. There are several, in fact, and for those reasons I’m glad I continued reading.
First, this is a love story. Karly’s father, David Sheehan, was a good father who loved his daughter and cared for her as best he could. Memories of conversations and interactions between father and daughter are sprinkled throughout this story, adding a layer of beauty to the memories of this life cut tragically short. Karen Spears Zacharias is a good storyteller, and if you haven’t checked out her blog on Patheos, you should. What makes her a good storyteller shows in this book: her attention to detail and listening ear. Having received permission from David to share this story enabled her to hear and share stories that bring these sweet but painful memories to life. These memories serve to honor the brief life of an innocent girl who loved and was loved. The author’s empathy and attention to detail serve this purpose well—the love between father and daughter is palpable.
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