New Canaan Library Book Review: ‘Only Child’ by Rhiannon Navin


[Editor’s Note: This is the first in a new monthly feature on, a book review from Laura Cavers, the Readers Advisory at New Canaan Library, chosen specifically for our local readers. In her position, Cavers hears regularly from library patrons about what they like to read and makes recommendations based on individual tastes.]

Only Child, by Rhiannon Navin, is an astonishing gripping novel about a family and a community coping with the aftermath of a shooting at the town’s elementary school.

I didn’t want to read this story – so much of this kind of tragedy is in the news, and Sandy Hook, not a far drive from New Canaan, is still very raw. However, I couldn’t put the book down.

The young narrator is six-year-old Zach Taylor and his voice is calm, curious and even hopeful as he, his family and community work through grief and confusion. It is through Zach’s eyes, and especially his heart, that you experience the entirety of the tragedy: his hiding in a closet during the shooter’s rampage; his mother’s descent into rage-filled revenge; his father retreat to work as his way to cope; and his coming to terms with the loss of his older brother, one of the victims of the tragedy.

It is not a violent novel because Zach’s innocence cannot comprehend tragedy. Instead I ripped through the pages because I engaged deeply with this young boy’s desire to understand and make things right for everyone, especially his mom.

Fans of Emma Donoghue’s novel Room would appreciate Navin’s Only Child, the protagonist’s voice, and striving for meaning, is similar. And those who attended “Talking To Your Kids About Violence” program at the New Canaan library on Tuesday may also be interested to read this book. It is not a how-to avoid this kind of tragedy type of book, but it is a good fictional representation of how a child may interpret the aftermath of such a terrible happening. Worth reading.

Only Child was featured in “Crazy for Reading,” the library’s “un-book” group where you get to read what you want, when you want, and then come in to discuss it. I lead the group, sharing themed titles plus highlighting books close to publication. Crazy for Reading will meet one more time, before a summer hiatus, at 11 a.m. on June 7 in the Curtis Gallery.  Join us as my short presentation will feature “Publishers Best Bets This Summer.” Hope to see you there. If you are interested in obtaining Rhiannon Navin’s Only Child, please call New Canaan Library, we will be happy to put it on hold for you.

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