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The brother of Gary Gilmore, the infamous murderer immortalized in Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, tells the stunning story of their wildly dysfunctional family--a family destroyed by a multigenerational history of child abuse, alcoholism, crime, adultery, and murder. "Impossible to put down."--John Schulian, L.A. Times. Photos.
"Remarkable, astonishing... Shot in the Heart reads like a combination of Brothers Karamazov and a series of Johnny Cash ballads... chilling, heartbreaking, and alarming." -- Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times.
"Mesmerizing... riveting and immensely moving... Shot in the Heart is a gesture of sustained courage that just happens to be a page-turner." -- Daphne Merkin,The New Yorker.
1. Families often share private legacies and myths. The Gilmore children grew up hearing family secrets and stories, from the abandonment of their father by Houdini to the dramatic tale of a public hanging witnessed by their mother as a young girl. Discuss the impact of these stories on the life of each parent, and on the life of each of the four boys: Frank, Gary, Gaylen, and Mikal.
2. How did the Gilmore family deal with feelings of anger and pain? What avenues of escape did individual members of the Gilmore family develop as a means of coping?
3. Was this story fated? If so, why? What do you see as the various key turning points in Gary's development from innocent child to cold-blooded murderer? What were some possible actions or developments--or turns of fate--that could have saved this family from its violent and tragic course?
4. Children often act out the unexpressed fears and desires of their parents. Give examples of this from Shot in the Heart or from your own experience.
5. What was the most significant difference between the family Mikal grew up with and the one his brothers experienced?
6. Mormonism is the predominant religion originating in America, and is among the fastest growing religions in the world. Is the Mormon religion quintessentially American? If so, why?
7. As a system of beliefs, religion can have the dramatic ability to shape our perceptions of the world. What impact can religious differences have on a marriage? How were these differences handled between Mikal's Catholic father and his Mormon mother?
8. Gary Gilmore was first incarcerated at age fourteen. What was the impact of reform school on Gary? On Gaylen?Are reform schools substantially different today than they were in the 1950s? Discuss the advisabililty of incarcerating youthful offenders. Is getting tough on young criminals a deterrent to crime or a further conditioning agent to crime?
9. Frank and Gary Gilmore were only a year apart in age yet Gary spent most of his life in prison and became a vicious murderer, while Frank went to prison as a conscientious objector who refused to even pick up a gun. Why do you think this was so?
10. How has juvenile deliquency evolved in our society since the 1950s? How has the criminal justice system adjusted to this evolution?
11. Is there a difference between rural violence and urban violence? Which one would you expect to be more violent, and why?
12. We traditionally think of the death penalty as a deterrent to crime. Is it possible that capital punishment was an incentive for Gary Gilmore to murder?
13. What impact does the media coverage of crime have on society?
14. What rights of privacy do families possess when it comes to child rearing methods? What forms of abuse require intervention, and at what point is intervention by outsiders (teachers, neighbors, counselors) acceptable and even necessary?
15. What are acceptable methods of punishing children? What do you know about child-rearing practices in other cultures?
16. Who is to blame when an individual commits an act of violence? The individual? The family? Society? How do we allocate responsibility?
Posted January 1, 2007
Mr. Gilmore writes well and no doubt covered the subject of his life and the lives of his family members well. However, the book was laden with too many excuses as to why the Gilmore boys went bad. He makes the point many times of their intelligence and abilities to create yet, according to him, they were completely helpless in functioning in the world. He speaks of the numerous beatings yet, in the same breath, tells how the parents upheld Gary and Gaylen in all their escapades. It seems there was very good evidence of mental illness in the mother, and the father may have had a dose of it, too. I think their upbringing did contribute to their falls however, it was because no one ever reined them in. They all made excuses and thought they were doomed and haunted and marked with evil. Let's face it. Gary Gilmore was a thug. He was allowed to skip from prison to prison and the whole family did not ever admit that Gary put himself there. I thought Mikal just tried to rationalize their lives too much. He needed to face up to the fact that he had a sociopath for a brother, and Gaylen wasn't far behind. I was worn out with his interpretations of every act as to how they related to the family being doomed. They doomed themselves. They were lucky Gary didn't kill them all in one of his rare free moments. Mikal is a bright man, and he needs to put this behind him.
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 17, 2012
I had a hard time getting through this book .Reason being it was too drawn out and felt myself skipping pages to get to the crux of the issue being discussed. Probably not what I imagined. Would not have been a choice if it was not recommended to me by a friend. Would have liked more detail about the actual trial. Less detail about the intimate details of a very dysfunctional family.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 27, 2014
Posted May 15, 2013
I couldn't put this book down, it was such an amazing story of a dysfunctional family. I would highly recommend this book, I didn't want it to end! Easy read as well.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 23, 2011
Posted August 12, 2010
A very well told and written story of an amazingly dysfunctional family. The scope of which takes you from Houdini to Gilmore with many other interesting individuals in between. Nothing seems to be left out or over embellished. A fascinating account of poverty,child abuse,alcoholism and unbelievable, yet documented, tragedy. How the Author made it out alive and hopefully now well is beyond me.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 29, 2008
Wow, what a story! This is a great read. I always wondered what it was like to live in an extremely disfuctional family and this story gave a full description of what a situation would be like for a child. Incredible and what a journey for anyone to live through, yet alone survive!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 2, 2004
This is one of the best books I have ever read. It kept my interest throughout the whole book. Mr. Gilmore is an excellent author. My highest praises to him. Very highly recommended.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 15, 2003
This book is a brave accomplishment on Mikal Gilmore's behalf. He writes with no holes barred about his parents and brothers and himself. He shows how evil can cause many different reactions in the same family. You feel for each member of the family.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 24, 2002
Mikal Gilmore has done what most writer's would find very difficult to do: to write a memoir of his family, that writhed in violence, hatred, sadness, and superstition. He doesn't say to the reader, "This is what happened to my brother. Please forgive his murderous doings." He gives you so many points of view, that you can decide for yourself. Often painful passages, which tear at the heart, and leave you wondering: how he must have suffered through the writing of this book. But it is as much an important story to be read, as the importance of why he wrote it: to help heal and tell you a story you'll never forget.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 21, 2010
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Posted January 22, 2011
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