A literary tour de force from the acclaimed author of The Blessings-a riveting novel about one of the most urgent crises of our time.
One August afternoon, as single mother Maggie Daley prepares to send her only child off to college, their world is shattered by news of a mass shooting at the local mall in rural Maine. As reports and updates about the tragedy begin to roll in, Maggie, an English professor, is further stunned to learn that the gunman had been a student of hers: Nathan Dugan was an awkward, complicated young man whose quiet presence in her classroom had faded from her memory-but not, it seems, the memories of his classmates.
When a viral blog post hints at the existence of a dark, violence-tinged essay Nathan had written during Maggie's freshman comp seminar, Maggie soon finds herself at the center of a heated national controversy. Could the overlooked essay have offered critical red flags that might have warned of, or even prevented, the murders to come? As the media storm grows around her, Maggie makes a series of desperate choices that threaten to destroy not just the personal and professional lives she's worked so hard to build, but-more important-the happiness and safety of her sensitive daughter, Anna.
Engrossing and provocative, combining sharp plot twists with Juska's award-winning, trademark literary sophistication, If We Had Known is at once an unforgettable mother-daughter journey, an exquisite portrait of a community in turmoil, and a harrowing examination of ethical and moral responsibility in a dangerously interconnected digital world.
An incident as timely as the day's headlines a mall shooting that leaves five dead, including the gunman catalyzes the plot of this compassionate, searching novel. When Nathan Dugan, an engineering student at Central Maine State, shoots four people before turning the gun on himself, people in his social orbit ponder whether they overlooked warning signs. Luke Finch, who shared a class with him four years before, posts a Facebook remembrance of Nathan as a weird loner. When it goes viral, Nathan's freshman composition professor, Maggie Daley, comes under scrutiny for overlooking a paper in which Nathan fetishized guns and hunting. Juska (The Blessings) explores the characters' ensuing efforts to assign blame and their damaging impact on the lives of Maggie; her anxiety-prone daughter, Anna; Nathan's mother; and others. The novel also expertly depicts the way in which, in the wake of a public tragedy, the echo chamber effect of the internet (including a harmful YouTube video) and social media easily convert speculation and supposition into damning "fact." Although some of the peripheral characters only exist to serve the plot, Juska's novel is moving and memorable in its portrayal of people unexpectedly involved in devastating events.