From Publishers Weekly
With nearly 50 victims, the commuter hamlet of Middletown, N.J., and its environs suffered the "largest concentrated death toll" on September 11 of anyplace in America. A "town with no middle," Middletown consists of affluent financiers and working-class police officers and firefighters-two groups that were hit particularly hard in the attacks. Bestselling author Sheehy (Passages; Hillary's Choice; etc.), who spent almost two years observing the residents' reactions to the staggering loss, explores how this high-end suburb, for which the closest thing to a social fabric was a ferocious sensitivity to social status, dealt with the tragedy. Sheehy ignores governmental machinations in order to describe the welter of emotions ordinary Americans experienced. The enemy of cliche is detail-and Sheehy's months in the town yield subtle, detailed portraits that confound easy images of "strength" or "denial" (although those are also present). Sheehy implicitly critiques modern American life: any salutary community bonding suggests a prior lack of cohesion, just as the emphasis on financial assistance tends to obscure more fundamental psychological needs. In a community filled with "prefeminist" housewives, "loss of self" became a substantial problem-who am I, if not this or that victim's spouse? Fortunately, in addition to the considerable generosity the town evinced, survivors were able to form an "intentional family" united by grief. One sometimes hears that everyone "knows" what happened on September 11. This admirable book tells precisely the stories we could stand to hear more about. 8 pages of photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Sheehy brings the insightfulness she offered in Passages
(1976) and Silent Passage
(1992) to this examination of the traumatic impact of 9/11 on Middletown, New Jersey, which suffered "the largest concentrated death toll" from the terrorist attacks. The middle- and upper-class enclaves of Middletown are populated by families whose breadwinners work on Wall Street. Sheehy spent more than two years interviewing more than 50 residents to learn how their lives were changed forever. Almost immediately, considerations of "the great green salve" of money intruded, pitting grieving families against corporate interests and prompting criticism of the families as money-grubbers. Sheehy also chronicles the social and psychological changes in an affluent, highly individualistic, not particularly friendly community, where some 9/11 widows progressed from stay-at-home soccer moms to aggressive advocates for investigation into the government's foreknowledge and reaction to the attacks. Sheehy looks beyond the heroic images of the families to show their struggles with issues as huge as faith and as mundane as yard work. She also explores the long and arduous process of recovery for families learning to live with the "new normal" of almost constant fear and anxiety. An incredible close-up look. Vanessa BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved