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Testimony: A Novel , by Anita Shreve (A Multicast Production)

Place this book on your "must read" list. It is a very absorbing story told in an unusual manner. Each character describes his or her role in the scandal that rocked Avery Academy, a private school in Vermont. This one incident ruins so many lives and ultimately takes the life of one individual. The headmaster of the school begins Chapter One -- titled "Mike" -- with his reaction to a video tape that is sent to him. Upon viewing the video, the headmaster is shocked to see three of his top students, 18-year-old seniors Silas and Rob, and J-Dot, a post graduate, drunkenly involved in sex acts with a young female. Mike observes that the girl is not only a willing participant, but seems to be the leader. However, the boys are the ones who are going to be in the most trouble, because the girl is a 14-year-old freshman. Mike is especially shocked that Silas, a local student, is involved. Everyone knows that he and Noelle, a gifted musician, are a devoted couple with plans for a future together. Then Mike remembers that the day before the incident, Silas had returned home from school an hour earlier than usual. He must have known something was wrong when he saw Mike's car in the driveway, and, on entering the house, saw neither his mother nor Mike. Could Silas' deviant behavior be a reaction to a situation Mike had caused?

As noted, each chapter is a named for a character and that person tells of his or her involvement in and the after effects of the incident. Their stories interrelate and dovetail, leading to an conclusion which shows how the consequences of one act can affect so many others and can ruin so many lives. This book is a departure for Anita Shreve, whose main characters are usually women who interact with a limited number of other characters. In addition to the unique approach of being told from multiple points of view, this audio book is narrated by a cast of more than a dozen readers. It makes the turmoil each character experiences as a result of the incident even more convincing.

The story is heartrending and conveys a message about the dangers of the use of alcohol in secondary schools, both private and public. It also explores the concept of privilege, whether due to wealth, ability or birth. Anita Shreve has once more created a touching account of real people in ordinary circumstances, reminding us that no one is immune to unexpected tragedy and that seemingly innocent actions can have devastating consequences for a wide circle of people.

John Mormon

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