Mike got up off the floor and sat on the sofa while he loosened his tie and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt, as if increasing the blog flow to the brain might help solve his problem. And it was then that the word containment entered his mind. And with that word, moral, ethical, and political choices were made, though Mike would realize the implications of these only later, when it occurred to him that he might have chosen at that moment another word, such as revelation, say, or help. -From Testimony, page 12-
Anita Shreve’s newest novel Testimony (due for release by Little, Brown and Company on October 21st) is a riveting story. The book is set in Vermont at a small, private school and told from multiple view points. Mike Bordwin, the headmaster of Avery Academy, is shocked when he views a tape which shows a 14 year old girl at the school engaging in a drunken orgy with three male students – all of whom are 18 years old or older. He recognizes the young men as stars of the school basketball team and is faced with a dilemma. Should he keep the “problem” contained to the school disciplinary committee, or is this a criminal act that should involve law enforcement?
As the novel unfolds, the reader discovers each character’s unique perspective of the event and the consequences of their behaviors. There is no one who is left unscathed as each character “tells” their side of the story, including the parents and children directly involved and those seemingly minor characters such as the guy who sells alcohol to minors and the cafeteria lady at the school.
Taut, gripping and impossible to put down, Shreve’s novel explores the devastating aftermath of this one event. Nothing is as it seems and each character’s decisions will have an impact impossible to predict. Thematically the novel explores the tenuous relationships between parent and child, and looks at how expectations can be shattered in the course of a night. This is a book which I predict will make the book club circuit and become a favorite to discuss.
I recommend this provocative novel to those readers who are not offended by graphic sexual scenes and difficult subject matter.