A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder

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A Silence of Mockingbirds

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
On June 3, 2005, three-year-old Karly Sheehan, daughter of divorced parents Sarah and David Sheehan, was beaten to death. Convicted in the case was Sarah's boyfriend, Shawn Field. Although Karly showed signs of abuse shortly after Sarah met Shawn, and a concerned daycare worker reported as much to the Oregon Department of Human Services, "a continuum of failure" caused the case to fall through the cracks. The author (also a journalist) knew Sarah when Sarah was a student at the school where Zacharias was a substitute teacher, and for a short time Sarah lived with the Zacharias family. Yet the author lost track of Sarah, and Karly had been dead for two years before Zacharias learned of the murder. Though pitched as a memoir, Zacharias never recounts meeting Karly, and much of the material comes from interviews, though not with Sarah or Shawn. Chronologically unclear, melodramatic (e.g., When the author hears of the tragedy, she exclaims, "Oh, dear God. Dearest. God."), and repetitive, Zacharias's telling of Karly's truly tragic story seems exploitative and sensationalist. Nevertheless, the author poignantly highlights the problem of underreported child abuse, and points to the Oregon State Legislature's unanimous passing of Karly's Law—which made it mandatory for caseworkers and law enforcement officers to notify authorities of suspected victims of abuse—as an example for the rest of the nation. (Apr. 1)
Library Journal
Journalist Zacharias (Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide?: (Cause I Need More Room for My Plasma TV)) presents a searing account of child abuse and murder, bringing to life a tragedy with which she is intimately familiar. For a time, Zacharias welcomed problem child Sarah Sheehan into her home and essentially raised her. After Sarah reached adulthood, Zacharias lost touch with her, only to become reconnected after Sarah's daughter, Karly, was tortured to death by Sarah's sociopathic boyfriend, who, in a high-profile trial, was convicted and subsequently imprisoned. Zacharias was shaken to the core by the brutality and inexplicability of the crime, particularly since she knew that Sarah's ex-husband was a devoted father. What went so awry? Per Zacharias, some fault lies with Sarah, who acted irresponsibly, but the author also argues that the social services system failed Karly by doing nothing despite repeated notifications about the abuse. Ultimately, Zacharias hopes that Karly's tragic death will save other children's lives in the future. VERDICT A harrowing cautionary tale that will touch fans of Ann Rule's chilling works.—Lynne F. Maxwell, Villanova Univ. Sch. of Law Lib., PA
Kirkus Reviews
One woman's investigation into the murder of the daughter of a former family friend. Zacharias (Journalism/Central Washington Univ.; Will Jesus Buy Me A Double-Wide?, 2010, etc.) draws on personal experience in recounting the murder of Karly Sheehan, a 3-year-old who died at the hands of her mother's boyfriend. The author continually highlights her once-friendship with the victim's mother, Sarah Sheehan, even though their relationship dissolved in the years prior to Karly's death. Arguably, this is still Zacharias' story to tell, though her occasional missteps into the realm of melodrama undercut her ability to tell it. In the opening chapter, Zacharias explains that only three people know what happened on the day of Karly's murder: "One of them is dead. One of them is in prison. And one of them blames me." This notion of Sarah--who was not her daughter "in the literal sense, or even in the adopted sense, but in that way people choose others as ‘family' "--blaming Zacharias seems a bit of a stretch. This and other exaggerative flourishes will prompt some readers to question Zacharias' continual need to insert herself into the narrative, a decision that leaves precious little space for the complexities of the case. While the author constructs her narrative from a wide range of letters, e-mails, court documents and personal experiences, many of the key witnesses--including the murderer and Karly's mother--played no role in her investigation. What's left is a story told by the heroes, most notably Karly's father, David Sheehan, who agreed to the book and is noted in the dedication. An incomplete though mostly engaging portrait of the circumstances surrounding the death of a little girl.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596923751
  • Publisher: MacAdam/Cage Publishing, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/1/2012
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 24, 2013

    "A Silence of Mockingbirds" by Karen Spears Zacharias

    "A Silence of Mockingbirds" by Karen Spears Zacharias

    MYA WARNING:This is a book you can't take to the doctors office---you won't hear your name called. It might cause trouble with your spouse because you will be late making super--you will loose track of time. Nuff said.

    This novel pulls the reader in from the first page and will not let you go until the end.This is a true account of a murder of a child of three. This is a memoir of a murder and the justice system that let her down.

    The story takes place in Corvallis, Oregon.The author knew the mother and the father ,Sarah and David Sheehan. She also knew the child Karly,three years old at the time of her death. Early on Sarah was like a daughter to the author and when she married David ---Karen was very pleased. However, after Karly was born Sarah became bored with David and wanted to divorce him. She wanted to be a party girl and have fun at the bars and go out with different men. She soon had a boyfriend that she lived with and that stayed at home with his own child and watched Karly while Sarah worked and played. His name was Shawn Field. After Karly started staying with Shawn she started missing daycare. The daycare was payed for by her father so there was no reason for her to miss and she liked playing with the other children . She also started showing up with bruises.

    This is a step by step account of the officials checking out abuse complaints and then court room trial of the murder of Karly.This even has interviews with the district attorneys , the members of the jury,the family,and the judge.Also the police officer who did not follow through,the case workers from CPS, and the family Doctor who did not recognize the abuse.

    Karly cried out for help but no one heard her cry.

    This should be required reading for high school English students so that they recognize abuse and abusive spouses before their children end up like Karly.

    Now in Oregon there is a law to help to keep from letting a case like this happen again. It is called Karly's law. All the states need this law.

    This was a page turner for me. I highly recommend this novel.Thank you Karen Zacharias for a great read.

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