Wednesday, March 30, 2011

THE YEAR WE DISAPPEARED by Cylin Busby and John Busby

If you like your stories to have closure, or even poetic justice, don't expect it out of this one. It's gritty, it's frightening, it's messy—and it's true. And just like real life, not everything gets tied up in a neat bow in the end.

The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir is a true story. In 1979, Massachusetts police officer John Busby was brutally shot while starting his shift, losing much of his lower jaw. He survived, but his life and the lives of his family members were irrevocably altered. The story is told in alternating first-person chapters from the point of view of John Busby and his daughter Cylin, who was nine years old at the time of the shooting.

It's not an easy story to read. First, John does not pull any punches in his description of the horrific shooting or his long, painful recovery.
Similarly, Cylin unflinchingly shows us how the rest of the family copes—or fails to cope—in the weeks and months to follow. The family has little privacy or freedom; they're being guarded around the clock in case the shooter decides to try to finish the job or get to John's wife or children. Cylin's two older brothers, their mother Polly, Cylin herself—each of them faces their own challenges, and of course John Busby must undergo some of the greatest challenges of all in his physical recovery. The level of detail, both with respect to the fear and frustration that Cylin feels, and with respect to John's painful recovery and nearly homicidal need for revenge, is almost overwhelming at times—as, indeed, it must have been for them.

It might make you angry. It probably should make you angry. I was appalled by the end, after feeling John's frustration and rage at what had been done to him and the unfairness of how his case was handled. The fear, cronyism, and corruption endemic to the law enforcement structure of the small town in which he lived made completely impossible any effective investigation into who had perpetrated the crime--someone John Busby was very much convinced he already knew.

So, no, this one isn't an easy story to swallow. But it IS riveting, I promise you that.

Random Notes:
The Year We Disappeared won a Cybils Award in 2008 for YA/MG Non-Fiction. Also, CBS did a 48 Hours special on the Busby family's story back in 2009. I'd be interested to know if anyone has seen it, and if so, what you thought of the TV version of the story.

Dear FCC: For the purposes of this review, I used a library copy of this book.


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