When I began reading this
book, I felt that the author, very much like the characters in that
first, awful chapter, was posturing before a camera, saying the
'right', shocking things, making all the 'right', unbelievable moves.
I thought to myself: this is a book written for an audience - an
audience that enjoys being titillated and shocked, and, at that
point, I came very close to abandoning the book. However, I decided to give the author the benefit of the doubt.
It is definitely not a
book I would read a second time, even though, to give Anita Shreve her due, the idea behind the book - the
ripple effect of a thoughtless action - is interesting. That said, I
felt that the characterization is uneven and, in many cases, not
sufficiently established to enable the reader to sympathize fully
with any of the main characters.
The title, Testimony,
(meaning: evidence in support of a fact or statement; proof) is
somewhat misleading, unless, of course, Shreve is simply saying that
alcohol and schools do not mix. Unfortunately, the 'why' behind the
incident at the beginning of the book is buried under the confusion of all the people who are
somehow connected, either directly or indirectly, with what happened.
The story blunders along, swinging from one person to another,
collecting various snippets of guilt and dissatisfaction, until,
finally, at the very end of the novel, one of those involved gives us an extremely
belated answer to the 'why'.
It is made very clear
that the headmaster mismanaged the situation, and it is possible that, in his
eagerness to protect everyone involved, including the school, he
makes a number of disastrous decisions; however, given the fact that
the incident had already gone viral on the internet by the time he
became involved, I really doubt that anything he did or did not do
would have saved the situation. However, if the question 'why' had
been answered at an early stage of the drama, which, to my way of
thinking, would have been more realistic, then much heartache could
have been avoided. Of course, the book would then have been very
different; in fact, it may not even have been written.
Definitely not the best
book I have ever read, and I would think twice before reading another
book by the same author. Although it does have a number of redeeming
factors, I feel that it is a book that has been written very much
with a certain section of the book-buying public firmly and centrally
A review of the book from the Los Angeles Times