This is a book that stays with you...
A Killer’s Grace follows Kevin Pitcairn, a New Mexican journalist and recovering alcoholic, on a journey to understand the concepts of innocence and grace after receiving a letter from Daniel Davidson, a convicted serial rapist and killer. What starts seemingly as a thriller quickly becomes a treatise on the nature of these topics, challenging the reader’s understandings thereof alongside Pitcairn’s own struggle, while tying in a very nuanced discussion of religion.
I, personally, had some issues with the book—for starters, it is revealed early on in the story that, years ago, in an alcohol and drug-fueled frenzy, Pitcairn killed a man and was never brought to full justice. While the character struggles with it and tries to reconcile that act through his work toward bringing understanding to Davidson, it’s just accepted by his girlfriend and Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor as something that happened. In fact, it’s so accepted that his girlfriend takes Pitcairn yelling at a dog as more of a threat of violence than his dark past. Perhaps I’m bringing a personal bias against murderers into my reading of this book, but I can’t shake this overwhelming acceptance of manslaughter as being horribly unrealistic.
The larger issue is more with the overall message of the book. Pitcairn’s eventual thesis is “violence begets violence,” a hard pill to swallow for me because, while I understand and even readily accept it, it still seems a bit dismissive to the actual crimes. Chapman, in his defense, repeatedly tries to reconcile this by saying that, while the cause of the transgression may be other violence, the offender is not without fault; essentially, it’s not a question of innocence, but one of causality. However, this focus on causality disconnects Pitcairn from what actually sent him on this journey of understanding. Although Pitcairn’s eventual article on Davidson references some abuse, the killer himself doesn’t bring any up in his initial letter, instead blaming his mental illness and associated biology that caused him to act in such a way, proven by the fact that he no longer has such gruesome urges after anti-androgen treatments. He wrote to Pitcairn in an effort to spread the word of his disorder, and instead of the article sparking a discussion on the role of mental illness in horrendous crimes, it becomes focused on the thesis of violence begetting violence, with only passing mentions of biology as a source of causality. In that sense, Davidson is done a disservice in favor of Pitcairn’s search for his own absolution.
This is a story that stays with you, and the fact that I was able to write 200 words strictly on my thoughts of how causality is presented in the novel is proof of that. I’d recommend this book, even if it were only to have someone with whom I could discuss it fully.
Elizabeth Seratt is a child of the Deep South, but upon graduating from Ole Miss in 2014, she made an ill-advised move to Santa Fe, where she had no job and no friends. It worked out: she now works as a social media coordinator and occasional freelance writer, and she has enough friends to throw cool theme parties.
She enjoys books, travel, horror movies, green chile, beer, playing outside, taking too many photos, and spending time with her cat. You can follow her adventures on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/elizabethseratt/), or enjoy her snark and love of memes on Twitter (https://twitter.com/elizabethseratt).
Paperback: 240 Pages
Author: Ronald Chapman
Publisher: Terra Nova Books; 2 edition (September 1, 2016)
UPCOMING BLOG TOUR DATES
Thursday, September 15th @ Bring on Lemons with Cathy Kwilinski
Cathy Kwilinski reviews Ronald Chapman's A Killer's Grace.
Friday, September 23 @ Renee's Pages
Tange Dudt reviews A Killer's Grace by Ronald Chapman; find out what she had to say after reading this highly acclaimed novel!
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