‘Zach’s story starts on the worst day of his life….
…..and takes him on a journey no-one could have expected.’
Only Child is the incredible debut written by Rhiannon Navin and just published with Mantle Books. It is such a relevant read for the society that we live in today, as it deals with the terrifying ordeal of a gunman entering a school, leaving a trail of devastation in his wake.
What makes Only Child so very very special and so very heart breaking is that we get to see things from the perspective of a six-year-old little boy, Zach Taylor.
A book that had me an emotional wreck as I turned the final pages. Read on to see why…
We went to school that Tuesday like normal.
Not all of us came home . . .
Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, six-year-old Zach can hear shots ringing through the corridors of his school. A gunman has entered the building and, in a matter of minutes, will have taken nineteen lives.
In the aftermath of the shooting, the close knit community and its families are devastated. Everyone deals with the tragedy differently. Zach’s father absents himself; his mother pursues a quest for justice — while Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and drawing.
Ultimately though, it is Zach who will show the adults in his life the way forward — as, sometimes, only a child can.
The lives of a community change forever the day a gunman enters a school with intent to kill, maim, harm and cause pain in the most heinous fashion.
Rhiannon Navin was inspired to write Only Child for all the wrong reasons. Her twin boys, at five years of age, were exposed to their first school lockdown drill. The resulting impact it had on her children terrified and saddened Rhiannon.
‘I am heartbroken that our children are growing up in a world where they have to learn how to hide from “bad guys” and I wrote Only Child out of fear and worry – but also with a great hope for a safer future for our children. Because although on the face of it, Only Child is a story of devastating loss and heartbreak, it is also – and most importantly – a story of love and compassion, forgiveness and healing. And that’s a story we all need right now.’
Zach Taylor is six-years old. One day, while in his class room he hears a strange sound outside in the corridor ‘POP POP POP’ Within seconds his teacher has the class all huddled in a closet, packed close together listening to the ‘POP POP POP’ getting closer….and then silence…..and then horror. Zach and his class-mates are soon rescued and brought in a line through the chaos and trauma outside their door. With a guard escorting them, they, with all the other uninjured children are taken through the rain to a local church, a place of safety, a place of sanctuary, a place for their parents to find them.
Zach is frightened.
Zach is wet.
Zach is cold.
Zach wants his Mommy.
Melissa Taylor, Zach’s Mom, arrives in a panic looking for her two boys, but she only finds Zach. Where is Andy, his older brother?
And so begins a story that will pull at every single one of your heartstrings. The Taylor family enter into an unknown world, a world that no family should ever have to experience. As a mother and father grapple to deal with their tragic loss, a little boy escapes into his own little world, a hiding place where he can talk to his brother, a place where he can express his worries and fears, a place where he feels safe.
On reading Only Child I found myself wanting to be on social media quoting, quoting, quoting. Every page has a moment that I wanted to share with the world, but there was one section that broke my heart. Zach decides to put colour to his feelings, but when it comes to assigning a colour to lonliness he’s stumbles..
‘And what color is for lonely? I thought that lonely had to be like a see-through color, so no color at all, because when you’re lonely it’s like you’re invisible from other people, but not invisible in a good way like a superhero, but in a sad way.’
Only Child is a novel that encompasses so many different issues. It deals with the enormous tragedy of gun violence and death. It deals with the grief of those left behind. It highlights the impact of such violent behaviour on the parents of the perpetrator. It brings the reader into the community and how the ripples of despair filter down through many lives. Only Child reflects on the aftermath of this terrifying act of violence, but what really makes it so so heartbreaking is how it focuses in on one little boy who has no understanding of why this happened.
Zach Taylor watches his Mommy and Daddy as they attempt to make some sense of it all. He watches their behaviour and slowly he sees his world disintegrating. Zach cannot begin to understand why his Mommy is too busy for him, why she has changed so much. His Daddy is trying his best but as the weeks go by, Zach starts to see less of him.
Zach is so young, yet so unbelievably wise for his age. At times, as adults, we get angry, we want revenge, an eye-for-an-eye. We fail to see a path through the red mist and pain. Zach, with a very strong awareness of the feelings of those around him, shines a light through this darkness.
Only Child genuinely left me with a lump in my throat and tears rolling down my eyes. Rhiannon Navin’s writing captured my heart. The story of Zach Taylor, while dealing with a terrible tragic event, is also a magical one. This is a story of forgiveness and hope, a story of grace, of humanity, of beauty. It is an incredibly powerful debut.
Rhiannon Navin said that the story ‘poured directly from my heart’ and these feelings are evident on every page. We all love our children, we all want them happy and more importantly we want them safe. Only Child is an exceptional novel, a book that should never NEED to have been written. But such is the society we now live in, where gun crime in schools is on the increase. We all need Zach Taylor in our lives. We need to listen to his wise words. We need to stop these unnecessary killings…..
Purchase Link ~ Only Child
Rhiannon Navin grew up in Bremen, Germany, in a family of book-crazy women.
Her career in advertising brought her to New York City, where she worked for several large agencies before becoming a full-time mother and writer. She now lives outside of New York City with her husband, three children, two cats, and one dog.
Only Child is her first novel.
Twitter ~ @rhiannonnavin