"If we don’t change the direction we are headed, we will end up where we are going."
That is the introductory quote to Jodi Picoult’s new novel, "Nineteen Minutes", which has an eerie, tragic relevance these days. Depicting a small town in New Hampshire, Picoult examines the aftermath of a high school shooting and how it can senselessly unravel lives. Formerly reminiscent of the shootings at Columbine four years ago to this month, I believe it will now forever be associated with this country’s worst school tragedy, namely, yesterday’s incidents at Virginia Tech. Even more poignant (frighteningly, tragically so), I began reading this book yesterday, right before the events were announced.
The similarities are frightening. Picoult depicts a scene in which Meredith Vieira and Ann Curry come to town to interview the victims’ families; that is exactly what I was watching this morning. The "experts" are seemingly hesitant, yet acquiescing, to provide a "profile" of a shooter. The question inevitably turns to the parents – what did they do wrong? How did they miss this? How did everyone miss the warning signs, how did this happen?
I’m not yet finished with this novel – I’m reading it more slowly, now, finding it a surprising salve for the pain that we’re all feeling – and while Picoult draws you into the lives of the characters, making the similar events all the more raw, the parallels are engaging. Unintentionally empathetic. I find myself turning off the television, instead relying on snippets from Google news, afraid to fall into the "September 11th Syndrome" when we slept by the light of the tv, waking up every few hours to learn more. Instead, I turn to fiction (albeit an eerily similar one) to help try and understand, to forgive, to engage – intentionally detached – and move on.