MONDAY, MONDAY by Elizabeth Crook is not a book that I normally would review. I generally gravitate towards biography, history and sports, and the fiction I choose usually revolves around courtrooms and lawyers. Crook’s wonderful novel is far removed from any of these categories, save for its plot connection to an historical event occurring on an oppressively hot Monday in August 1966 on the campus of the University of Texas. On that day, former marine Charles Whitman armed himself with a cache of weapons, climbed a tower on the Austin campus, and killed 16 people while wounding 32 others. He was then shot and killed by an Austin police officer. Sadly, such gun tragedies have become commonplace in America, but Whitman’s rampage was the first mass shooting of civilians on a campus in US history.
"My journey through the pages of MONDAY, MONDAY was not what I expected. But it was a journey I’m glad to have taken. It’s a vivid reminder of how one brief moment in time can impact lives for decades and generations, making Elizabeth Crook’s latest a brilliant, beautiful and vividly told novel."
We have become callused to these tragedies in our America. We mourn briefly, our President attends a memorial, we debate what we must do to end the senseless violence, and then, a few months later, we move on with our lives. But MONDAY, MONDAY reminds us that for the victims of these tragedies, there can be no moving on --- there are only the constant reminders of events that changed lives.
The horrific events set in motion by Whitman are covered here in just a few pages. The balance of the novel focuses on the lives of three students --- Shelly, Wyatt and Jack --- whose lives become irrevocably intertwined after the incident. Bullets from Whitman’s random shooting will strike Shelly and nearly cause her death. Cousins Wyatt and Jack will brave the gunfire to render aid to those wounded. Shelly will recover from her wounds and begin a relationship with Wyatt that will permanently entangle not only their lives, but the life of Jack as well. For the next four decades, these three survivors will be bound together by the meeting brought about by gunshots fired from the Texas tower.
Several years later, Shelly meets Dan, a fourth student present on the campus during the rampage. Events in the lives of all four are tied together in emotional, sometimes heartwarming, and other times tragic events that continue to remind us of the fragility of life. Elizabeth Crook fashions characters and events as real as the experiences many of us have felt in our lives. Readers will find themselves caring very much about the lives of not just the four characters who lived through that day in August, but also others whose lives are part of the book.
Books impact our lives in many ways. My journey through the pages of MONDAY, MONDAY was not what I expected. But it was a journey I’m glad to have taken. It’s a vivid reminder of how one brief moment in time can impact lives for decades and generations, making Elizabeth Crook’s latest a brilliant, beautiful and vividly told novel.
Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on May 2, 2014