HEY NANA! tells the true story of writer Toni Nunemaker’s tragic loss of her 9-year-old grandson, Connor. Stabbed to death for no apparent reason by another child he’d just met, Connor remains in the hearts and minds of the survivors long after the initial shock and grief of his violent end. This book is a moving testament to Connor, but also to the courage and understanding of his family and community. For a grandmother to write such a book took a great deal of fortitude, and the book could very well be a tremendous comfort to others in similar, seemingly hopeless circumstances.
The author’s minute-by-minute description of the events following Connor’s attack are full of specific detail when it comes to her own feelings and reactions; unfortunately, much of the book—which is short, maybe too short—doesn’t provide as much detail when describing the characters. We get little information about them, even the basic questions: ages, occupations, relationships, where they live, or specific personal traits and descriptions—all of which might have enhanced the book’s richness. Eventually the reader learns more, but sometimes the information feels a little late or doesn’t come at all.
HEY NANA! does succeed at the nearly impossible task of making some sense of Connor’s murder. His attacker, a 12-year-old, said he killed Connor “because he was tired of living and wanted to die himself.” The child had been abused horribly and this was his twisted way of getting out. Mental illness and drug abuse within the perpetrator’s family also contributed to the mix. All this was learned over the 2-year period of a murder trial, which took a tremendous toll on both families, and Nana’s health in particular. Her faith, love and understanding stand as monuments to the human spirit and its ability to resist pain and loss. Part of Nunemaker’s healing came from reaching out to the mother of her grandson’s killer, to help them and their convicted son as well. The realization that the two families were very similar, with many of the same problems, is a sharp observation, and fits nicely with the many other astute conclusions Connor’s Nana makes in this book. In HEY NANA! Toni Nunemaker takes us on a powerful, heart-wrenching journey, an inspiration to anyone facing his or her own hard times.
~Dave Eisenstark for IndieReader