Testimony by Anita Shreve
This was my latest book group's read, and a very thought provoking one it was too.
It deals with a sex scandal at a New England boarding school. Three males, aged between 17 and 19, and a 14 year old girl engage in an alcohol-fuelled evening of bad choices, immaturity and hormones. Their sexual acts are videotaped, which then turns up in the headmaster's office. Nothing on the tape suggests the girl is unwilling, she had more sexual experience than most people would expect of a 14 year old. “She was damaged and hungry, and knew how to make others hungry” said one boy, but should the more mature 19 year old have stopped it happening? In the state of Vermont the boys have committed sexual assault.
Although the sex scandal was the main issue, it was the trigger for the devastating consequences that followed. A town divided, marriages ended, several brilliant futures never realised, and worst of all, a life ended.
The story is told in the form of testimony, hence the title, skillfully drawing in the lives of adults who are indirectly culpable for what transpired. From the man who sold alcohol to teens, to the cafeteria staff, and to those more intimately involved, and finally from those who committed the offence.
To say I really enjoyed this read sounds slightly wrong given the subject matter, but this is such a well crafted book, it pulled me in from the very beginning. Shreve explores human failings and desires, the needs and fears that drive ordinary men and women into intolerable dilemmas. I like the way she tells the story one step at a time through different voices and perspectives.