One woman’s investigation into the murder of the daughter of a former family friend.
Zacharias (Journalism/Central Washington Univ.; Will Jesus Buy Me A Double-Wide?, 2010, etc.) draws on personal experience in recounting the murder of Karly Sheehan, a 3-year-old who died at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend. The author continually highlights her once-friendship with the victim’s mother, Sarah Sheehan, even though their relationship dissolved in the years prior to Karly’s death. Arguably, this is still Zacharias’ story to tell, though her occasional missteps into the realm of melodrama undercut her ability to tell it. In the opening chapter, Zacharias explains that only three people know what happened on the day of Karly’s murder: “One of them is dead. One of them is in prison. And one of them blames me.” This notion of Sarah—who was not her daughter “in the literal sense, or even in the adopted sense, but in that way people choose others as ‘family’ ”—blaming Zacharias seems a bit of a stretch. This and other exaggerative flourishes will prompt some readers to question Zacharias’ continual need to insert herself into the narrative, a decision that leaves precious little space for the complexities of the case. While the author constructs her narrative from a wide range of letters, e-mails, court documents and personal experiences, many of the key witnesses—including the murderer and Karly’s mother—played no role in her investigation. What’s left is a story told by the heroes, most notably Karly’s father, David Sheehan, who agreed to the book and is noted in the dedication.
An incomplete though mostly engaging portrait of the circumstances surrounding the death of a little girl.