By October 30, 2008 0 Comments Read More →

Reservation Road

Last night I watched the film version of John Burnham Schwartz’s harrowing novel, Reservation Road, which is about a tragic hit-and-run accident and its devastating effects on two families — that of the driver, and also his victim, a young boy.  The movie stars Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, and Jennifer Connelly, each of whom gives a powerful, heartwrenching performance.  It’s directed by Terry George, acclaimed for his previous film, Hotel Rwanda.  I’m not sure why this film didn’t receive more positive attention when it was originally released last year — perhaps because the subject matter is so dark — but it’s well worth seeing on DVD.

Watching it brought back memories of when I led a discussion of the Schwartz novel several years ago.  It was a challenging experience — some people don’t want to talk about the death of a child — but I was determined to dig into the book because I felt it was well written and dealt with important themes:  how people cope with grief; what it means to make bad choices; the need to forgive, even when one is overwhelmed with feelings of hatred and the desire for revenge.

Here is a story that centers on the worst experience that can happen to a parent, and it is very hard to read; but ultimately I believe it is worth examining, because the incident sets up such a dramatic chain reaction of very discussable issues, as one man struggles with his fear and guilt and another desperately seeks justice and retribution, even in the face of his crumbling marriage.  This is a book that asks, finally, “What does it mean to be a human being?”  You should seek it out, read it, and discuss it.

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About the Author:

Ted Balcom lives in Arlington Heights, IL and conducts workshops on leading book discussions, about which he has also published a book: Book Discussions for Adults: A Leader’s Guide (American Library Association, 1992).

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