If you stand all day on a street corner yelling at passers-by, you might reach a few hundred people. If you do the same on the Internet, this number is relatively unlimited.
“Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth” is exactly what it purports to be, even though the title couldn’t have prepared me for the level of education I was about to get.
Journalist Elizabeth Williamson’s new investigative piece is a bit longer than the stories you might be used to reading from her. “Sandy Hook” is divided into nearly 30 chapters, each with as much care and integrity as the last.
Williamson discusses her book with Robbie Parker, father of Emilie Parker, one of 20 children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, during a virtual Powell’s Books event at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 9. Register at powells.com/events.
Filled with the most impeccable details – those that are rarely the subject of close reporting – Williamson draws on documented facts to paint insightful portraits of the families and victims of the December 14, 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. But only about a quarter of the book focuses on Sandy Hook and the people involved. The rest is about the internet and the fight for truth.
Williamson, a columnist in the Washington bureau of The New York Times, waded through brackish swamps of misinformation, misinformation and trauma to arrive at a well-researched explanation of a tragedy, received in hand and neatly organized in the notes section of the delivered.
The expert organization keeps the narrative momentum going, never getting stuck on one particular person or topic. Williamson artfully lays the groundwork throughout, using these touchpoints to gently remind readers who’s who in the long list of people who appear in “Sandy Hook.”
That said, the book is exhausting: vivid tales of heartbreak, harrowing details about Sandy Hook, terrifying things people have said and done in the dark anonymity of the internet. The thick web of connections explored at your fingertips from the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing to QAnon and everything in between.
Somehow, despite the depressing nature of the subject matter, “Sandy Hook” remains hopeful.
Conspiracies and our post-truth reality are topics that have become persistent, making “Sandy Hook” one of the most important books of 2022. Events as recent as Joe Rogan’s fiasco with Spotify and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia underscore the need for scrutiny of the climate that has allowed — and continues to allow — dangerously false narratives to run wild.
—Donna Edwards, Associated Press