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Posted December 12, 2013
An interesting look at 1960’s British Colombia, small town life and ultimately a condemnation of the Crown’s allowance of the insanity defense, the story has depth without becoming a legal tome that is more word than emotion. Seifrit manages to depict the struggle to make ends meet in a fairly remote and often unforgiving area: where farming is just one of many endeavors the family is engaged in. Particularly notable is the emotion that is wrung from the imagined dialogue and the world building, the descriptions presented with a sense of having been there.
With the small family holding and livestock, it was not unexpected to need a farm hand, and when a reasonably suitable and affordable applicant presents himself, he is hired on. Western Canada, at that time was similar to the Wild West of the 1800’s, many people went west to leave troubles from the eastern coast behind themselves, reinventing their stories and lives for a new start. This is where the story takes a twist.
When the wife and young child, the only two with reservations about this hired hand, are found murdered, and the culprit is caught with the family car, the court proceedings ensue. Pleading not guilty by reason of insanity was the outcome: and the killer went on to live a reasonably normal life. But the lives of the remaining Townsends are forever etched with regret, anger, guilt and even condemnation of the Crown’s system, the allowance for an insanity defense with no punitive measures, and more importantly, Siefrit is able to imbue the text and subtext with raw and often unpleasant emotional weight, giving readers a true moment of ‘live in their shoes’ that is uncommon in my experience.
Serving to provide readers with a sense of aftermath and impact from the family, the author also lays out a clear if not always concise series of reasons that present the issues surrounding the criminal defense’s use of the insanity card, and a viscerally emotional story of victim impact that is often lost in the news stories that are all too prevalent.
Not a book for the faint of heart, or those looking for a glossy and breezy retelling of a grisly story, this book is emotionally raw at moments, thought provoking always, and provides a true sense of life and the events in British Colombia in the 1960’s.
I received an eBook copy of the title from the publisher for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.