2017 Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award - Book Reviews from the President (Pt. 3 - Regional Author Winner Lori Rader-Day)
Roberta Knickerbocker Jaggers is the President of The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation. A graduate of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Roberta holds a Master of Arts degree in Philanthropic Studies and a Master of Public Affairs degree with a concentration in nonprofit management. In her role as President, Roberta solicits and stewards gifts from a wide range of individual, foundation and corporate donors and works closely with the Foundation's Board of Directors. She has been with the Library Foundation in various capacities since 2002. Roberta has been poring over the works of this year's winners and finalists, and has lots to share! See below for her thoughts on Regional Author winner Lori Rader-Day's novel, "The Day I Died," and its impact on her as a mother:
“The Day I Died” by Lori Rader-Day tells the story of Anna Winger, a single mother with a mysterious past. She ekes out a living for herself and her 13-year-old son Joshua as a handwriting analyst (a passion she nurtured at the public library), serving corporate clients as well as “lonely hearts” desperate for insight into their latest love interests. At the bidding of her mentor Kent Schaffer, Anna reluctantly accepts an assignment with Sherriff Keller and the Parks County Police to find missing two-year-old Aiden Ransey. With its unsettling parallels to her personal experiences with domestic violence, the case forces Anna to come to terms with her past and what it means for Joshua.
Though engaging, Rader-Day’s novel is not easy. Its theme of domestic violence is emotionally charged. On a cerebral level, mystery novels always challenge readers to solve the crime before the protagonists. In “The Day I Died,” Rader-Day makes this especially difficult by blurring the lines between the seemingly mutually-exclusive labels of perpetrator, victim, survivor and helper. Initially, I hypothesized “whodunit” by placing each character in one of those categories. Of course, it wasn’t long before I realized Rader-Day’s characters were too complex to fit neatly into any column. This led to a surprise ending I didn’t see coming.
As a mother, I was particularly interested in how Rader-Day probed the tension between safety and danger. While Anna sought to protect Joshua from their family’s troubled past, she struggled to find the right approach. What does it mean to keep a child safe? How is it different for a teen? What are the consequences of completely shielding your child from a perceived threat? What are the consequences of exposing your child to the threat, and how can parental involvement mitigate any physical or emotional danger? Whether making the straightforward decision to remove your child’s training wheels or the heart-wrenching choice to separate your child from relatives, the questions are the same. As a mother, I found it helpful to reflect on them as I read this book.