“If we had just …”
“If I had only …”
These are the “what ifs” that plague us in the aftermath of a tragedy; when you think of all the little things you and others could have done differently to prevent something, if only you had known.
This is the concept Allan Wolf explores so beautifully in his new novel, Who Killed Christopher Goodman?
Everybody likes Chris Goodman. Sure, he’s a little odd. He wears those funny bell-bottoms and he really likes the word ennui and he shakes your hand when he meets you, but he’s also the kind of guy who’s always up for a good time, always happy to lend a hand. Everybody likes Chris Goodman, which makes it especially shocking when he’s murdered.
Here, in a stunning multi-voiced narrative including the perspective of the fifteen-year-old killer and based on a true and terrible crime that occurred when he was in high school, author Allan Wolf sets out to answer the first question that comes to mind in moments of unthinkable tragedy: how could a thing like this happen?
Inspired by a true story from his own past, Wolf dives into the seemingly innocent events that lead up to a teen boy’s murder — and begs the question, who is really to blame?
One of the first things I loved about this book is the setting and time period. Wolf sets the scene beautifully: late summer in a small Virginia town in 1979. His multiple narrators bring this world to life: the small diner, the local hang-out spots, and the town’s annual street festival. I really felt transported in place and time while reading this book.
I also really enjoyed the multiple narrators; Wolf never really tries to hide who the killer is. You know going into this book that Christopher Goodman is killed, and it’s pretty obvious from early on who murdered him. But what Wolf does is lay down the framework for questioning who is really to blame. That is, he sets up those nagging “what if” questions we all ask after such a tragedy. The same questions his narrators struggle with in the aftermath of Christopher’s death.
The book takes us back to the weeks and days leading up to his death, and shows us events from different people’s perspectives. We see their stories intertwining; we see their lives become connected. We see each person’s life as something independent of the other’s — and yet watch as they become inextricably connected leading up to the murder.
The answer to all those “what if” questions are, understandably, difficult to answer. And Wolf does a good job of wrapping up his story in a satisfying way without cheating the reader of the hard truth: there is no easy answer to those questions. You can spend eternity asking the “what if” questions and wondering how you could have changed the outcome, if only you’d done that one little thing differently, but the reality is: you can’t go back in time. What’s done is done. So how do you move on from that?
That’s what this book is really about. A touching exploration of guilt and growing up, Who Killed Christopher Goodman? is in stores March 14th.