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Alligator Candy: A Memoir by David Kushner
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Alligator Candy: A Memoir

by David Kushner

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993191,037 (3.95)1
David Kushner grew up in the early 1970s in the Florida suburbs. It was when kids still ran free, riding bikes and disappearing into the nearby woods for hours. One morning in 1973, however, everything changed. David's older brother Jon biked through the forest to the convenience store for candy, and never returned. Decades later, now a grown man with kids of his own, Kushner found himself unsatisfied with his own memories and decided to revisit the episode a different way: through the eyes of a reporter. His investigation made him realize just how much his past had affected his present. After sifting through hundreds of documents, conducting dozens of interviews, and poring over numerous firsthand accounts, he has produced a powerful and inspiring story of loss, perseverance, and memory.… (more)

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A sad memoir about the death of an older brother, tragically murdered when the brother was just 11. Alligator Candy deals with the grief of a tragedy, as well as how you cope with the day to day life following the tragedy. David Kushner's parents deal amazingly well with the tragedy, while it affects them, they are still able to find joy in life. David and his older brother, Andy, experience the loss of their brother, Jon, in varying ways. This is a story of remembering and holding onto their brother. It is also a story of overwhelming grief. It is the story of how innocence and freedom have become missing in the youth of our world today because we are terrified of what could happen. It is the story of two brutal men who shattered this innocence. While I thought most of the book was poignant, I also thought there were times when the writing seemed strained and dragged along. I can't imagine the horror and sadness of this family, having lived through the tragedy, but I believe that their family was amazingly resilient at how they went on with their lives, while never forgetting Jon and all the people that came together to aid their family. ( )
  rmarcin | Jan 22, 2019 |
"We had that conversation about the candy I wanted, the Snappy Gator Gum. And then he was gone."

So writes David Kushner of his brother Jon, who was kidnapped and murdered in 1973 at the age of 11 (the author was only 4 years old). In his brave and powerful book, Kushner shows the effect of the murder on his family and maps their grief in the decades since the crime. He examines his own confusion and guilt and how he has fought to come to terms with those feelings. How does a family survive a crime like this and find a way forward?

But more than that, this is a memoir of Jon: "I wanted to be my brother's brother. I wanted to be the writer of his story." He feels a compulsion to research and write the story of his brother's murder as a way of understanding and coming to terms with the crime. But it's an also an act of love: for Jon, and for his entire family. The process is very painful and difficult. It's a deeply personal and unflinching book, and it's not always easy reading. This is a courageous act of journalism: to delve so deeply into such painful family history. He needs the knowledge, even the worst. He spares us (and himself) nothing, not even the unbelievably gruesome details of the crime.

Kushner also writes of his own parenthood and his fears for his children. As he teaches his daughter to ride a bike, he wonders, like any parent: "How would I find the strength to give her the freedom she needed? How could I let her go into the world knowing that anything could happen? How could I survive if anything did? When I asked my parents how they did it, they said they always wanted me to get the most out of life. But now, as my daughter wiggled her feet on her pedals, I had no idea how they could have possibly endured." Reading his account, it's impossible not to admire his parents for the remarkable job they did raising David and his brother Andy with love and freedom after Jon's murder, refusing to shelter them or be overprotective, despite their grief and fear.

The parts of the book that are least successful are Kushner's discussions of modern parenting, generally. He tries to explore how crimes against children and resulting parental fears have changed the landscape of childhood forever, depriving children of independence and freedom. This never gets much beyond surface analysis and to me was a distraction from his powerful personal story.

(Thanks to Simon & Schuster for an advance copy via a giveaway. Receiving a free copy did not affect the content of my review.) ( )
  Wickabod | Jun 24, 2016 |
The author was four years old when he asked his older brother Jon to buy him some gum when he rode his bike to the local convenience store. Jon never came home. Eight days later Jon’s mutilated body was discovered and life was never the same for David, his parents or his other brother. This is their story after the murder. David’s memories of the time were vague due to his age and what people felt he could handle, so years later he used his reporting skills to go back in time to discover the truth behind Jon’s death. In doing so he uncovered many things, including what really happened, how the case was solved and what memories he had were true, while others were not. This is a family that remained together and strong despite what happened. Kushner attributes this to his parents’ ability to remain connected with others, sharing their pain and grief, while remaining compassionate people themselves. We often read about the victims in such tragedies, but this book shows how everyone who knew such a victim was affected by his death. But for the grace of God… ( )
  Susan.Macura | Mar 28, 2016 |
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