Karen Spears Zacharias has an eye for the truth and she does her best writing when highlighting certain stories where the truth is the key. She did this in her book about her own life, After the Flag Has Been Folded (Hero Mama), and she does it again in A Silence of Mockingbirds, where once again she is part of the story. This new book tells the story of the murder of a three year old child and if anyone deserves to have the truth told, it is this child.
Karly Sheehan was beaten to death, and the abuse had been happening for a long time prior to her actual demise. Karen Spears Zacharias had a front row view of the potential for harm as she had actually had Karly's mother living in her house at one time. The two had basically ended their friendship prior to the abuse of Karly beginning, but once she learned of the child's death, Zacharias began investigating how it happened.
Zacharias turned over every rock to find the reason this tragedy had occurred. She talked with Sarah, the mother, and with the child's father, David. Sarah and David were divorced at the time of Karly's death and had had a contentious relationship since their parting. Sarah's latest boyfriend, Shawn Fields, had more control over Karly than David did and, according the book, this is what ultimately led to Karly's death.
The story is full of "what if's" and "if only" questions. It seems beyond comprehension that everyone who came into contact with Karly, from her family to her friends, from the police to the social workers -- they all failed her. This failure haunts Zacharias and seems to be the impetus for her telling the story.
The book is worth reading if only because it might act as a preventative for something of this nature possibly happening again. Too many people had an opportunity to prevent Karly's death and each one failed to spot the signs or do the right thing. Karly fell through the cracks of the system and paid the ultimate price. This is what Zacharias hammers home again and again.
Although there is a wealth of information in the book about Karly and her situation, it is not presented in chronological order. Zacharias flips back and forth in time. A more direct approach to the story could have added more impact. Plus Zacharias' involvement in the story should have been eliminated or played down. She is a better observer than participant.
There is still much to draw you to this book. As a reader you get a close look at the world in which Karly lived and as Zacharias describes it, you get to see the thunder clouds of abuse forming in the distance. As Karly's short life draws to a close, you are horrified by the ease with which it occurred. She was alive one moment and dead the next.
Zacharias deserves credit for bringing Karly's story to life. You can tell by her words about herself how much this tragedy impacted her. It set her on a mission to find as much truth as she could and then let Karly's story play out for all the world to see.
A Silence of Mockingbirds is published by MacAdam/Gage. It contains 320 pages and sells for $25.00.
Jackie K Cooper
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