Winner of the Dzanc Books Prize for Fiction
Bloomland opens during finals week at a fictional southern university, when a student walks into the library with his roommate’s semi-automatic rifle and opens fire. When he stops shooting, twelve people are dead.
In this richly textured debut, John Englehardt explores how the origin and aftermath of the shooting impacts the lives of three characters: a disillusioned student, a grieving professor, and a young man whose valuation of fear and disconnection funnels him into the role of the aggressor. As the community wrestles with the fallout, Bloomland interrogates social and cultural dysfunction in a nation where mass violence has become all too familiar.
Profound and deeply nuanced, Bloomland is a dazzling debut that walks in step with the novels of Denis Johnson, Rachel Kushner, and Tom McAllister.
Bloomland is a moving, dark and beautiful journey inside a tragic school shooting and the rippling effects it has on three people - one indirectly affected (Rose), one directly affected (Eddie), and the shooter itself (Eli). That in itself made this story entirely unique. It is told in second-person POV, which helps transport you into the story, drawing you in by making you feel like you’re involved and living amongst these characters. It has vivid descriptions with an almost poetic fluidity in its storytelling, which despite the content and subject of the story, make it a strangely calming reading experience.
Initially, the story is narrated by a character we don’t directly meet and are only given a few clues about, but none the less, are totally intrigued by because we want to know whose mind we're in. When we make the connections and find out who it is, it's almost like we're walking in their shoes, putting together the connections and pieces between the three main characters.
Bloomland is heavy....so heavy. It stays with you for a while after reading the last sentence. It’s dark and gripping and doesn’t make you feel good but you want to keep turning the pages because you’re invested and captivated by Rose, Eddie and yes, even Eli. I couldn't put it down. It definitely provides some insight into the horrors and rippling effects these tragedies have on people. Reading about the shooter, his thought process, life, and problems were especially jarring. However, we also encounter the lives and thoughts of the other characters and gain some insight on grief and the different ways they experienced, lived and showed it.
I haven't read a book narrated in second-person in quite some time, so this was seemingly a new and fresh experience for me. I appreciated the unique experience and really felt like I was connected to both narrator and pro/antagonists.
Right now, we're in a horrific time in history where school shootings (and shootings in general, really) have almost become just a blip on our radar because they happen so often. Typically, the general public who are not directly affected by them move on after being horrified, saddened and mourning for people we don’t know for a few weeks/months. But recent news surfacing of teenagers and parents committing suicide over survivors guilt and depression made me want to pick up this book immediately.
I received this book through Edelweiss+ in exchange for my honest review.