There are times when a short little book can pack in a lot of very strong feelings, excellent writing, and encourage a taste for information, discussion, and awareness. Jan and I found this little book packed with a plethora of questions, ones we often struggled to comprehend, and yet this story is powerful and timely.
Far more than a simple courtroom drama, this book puts the sequestered jury as the focus. We learn details of the trial of a wealthy teenager accused of murdering her toddler brother only through their eyes, or, more specifically, through juror C-2’s eyes (we learn her name only in the last half). Her observations, her thoughts, her notes, and her relationship with juror F-17 are what drives this story and makes it so fascinating. The first half of this book deals with the time of the trial and the last half deals with the juror’s private lives and the aftermath once they return home.
I went in blind after hearing it recommended on a podcast and I am so glad I did. I recommend not reading blurbs and summaries. Intelligent and well-written, I was immediately sucked in and glued to the page. The writing is spare and unemotional which could keep a reader from connecting to the characters but in this case it worked for me. At less than 200 pages I read it in one day. Powerful and profound, this is a book that reminds me of why I love to read. The themes are intricately woven and takes the reader in some surprising directions. It’s a book I won’t soon forget.
Having served on a jury three times, one being a murder case, some of the juror types were very familiar to me, which made the story even more interesting to me. Reading this book as an exploration of our jury system alone would make this a worthwhile read, but it is so much more.
This book won’t appeal to those looking for answers but read it if you enjoy a book that makes you think long after you have closed the last page. It would make a terrific book club choice. This was my first book by this author, but it won’t be my last.
· Many thanks to Edelweiss for a copy of the book for review
· This was a buddy read with Marialyce, one that inspired one of our best discussions.
For what seems to be a very long time, courtroom drama has become a voyeuristic look into the workings of our legal system. Spurred on by the now famous OJ Simpson trial followed by many other lurid trials, we have become a culture where through social media, a frenzied press, and our own human need, we find ourselves drawn into the lives of others. Such was the case with this story of a sensational trial involving the heinous murder of an eighteen month child by an adopted teenage handicapped sister.
Jurors are called in and those who are selected, are to be sequestered during the trial proceedings. It is during this time that two of the jurors, C-2 and F-17 carry on an affair. As the horrendous proceedings occur at the trial, the jury called to deliberate find themselves conflicted and some suspect that part of that conflict is because the two lovers are on opposite sides of a guilty verdict. How could these two lovers, so caught up in one another, be fair judges of what has gone on in the trial proceedings?
There are so many themes running through this book. Explored is the concept of May December marriages, which is what Hannah, Juror number C-2 is experiencing with her much older husband. Hannah is looking for that one last fling, the one last time to prove that she is desirable and wanted, needing to affirm the fact that she has life left within her. Is the fairness of our trial system, where often details are left out compromising the decisions made, as fair as we all think it is? Is the sensationalism we often see in today’s press, that strives to publish all the gruesome details available and make headlines, so often compromising the people involved as well as often pushing the veracity of their reporting right and fair to all involved?
This short book leaves the reader with many questions. There are no solutions and as Ms Ciment writes brief and poignant prose, we are left to ponder the many complicated experiences we have after and during the reading of this story. The author lets us be our own jury scrutinizing ourselves, our feelings, and looking for the knowledge that our mind does often query many things without getting any real answers. Perhaps in the end, there are no solutions.
Recommended to those who enjoy stories that raise much awareness in your thought process, disturb your preconceptions, and leaves you feeling unsettled and rattled.
and here’s the author:
Jill Ciment was born in Montreal, Canada. She is the author of Small Claims, a collection of short stories and novellas; The Law of Falling Bodies, Teeth of the Dog, The Tattoo Artist, and Heroic Measures, novels; and Half a Life, a memoir. She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts, a NEA Japan Fellowship Prize, two New York State Fellowships for the Arts, the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Ciment is a professor at the University of Florida. She lives with her husband, Arnold Mesches, in Gainesville, Florida and Brooklyn, New York.