Gone Boy: A Walkabout
Gregory Gibson, Gone Boy: A Walkabout, Kodansha International, 1999.
Reviewed by Drew Meyers
In 1992, Gibson's son, Galen, was shot and killed on the campus of his small New England college by a fellow student who went on a random shooting spree. The book describes the author's "walkabout," his investigative journey for truth and healing as he comes face-to-face with the people involved in the events leading to the murder. Gun violence, Gibson concludes, involves more than simply a gun or a mentally ill teenager. It is influenced, as well, by a popular culture of violence and a general disbelief in the possibility of being personally affected by gun violence.
Gibson looks at the entire web of intersecting decisions, actions, and inactions that led to his son's death: among them, the college officials' decision not to intercept a shipment of bullets to the killer out of concern for his "privacy;" the U.S. trade policies and gun laws that make certain weapons easily available; his son's impulse to run and help when he learned that people on campus were injured. And he examines the background of the killer, a young man burdened with adult responsibilities from an early age who perhaps believed the shootings to be an initiation into manhood and American society.
By the time that Gibson meets the parents of his son's killer, he realizes that their disturbed and now-incarcerated son, more than his own, is the "Gone Boy" of the book's title.
Gibson's story illustrates powerfully and poignantly how hard it is for most Americans to believe that gun violence could ever intrude on their lives and how tragic the consequences are when it does - and not just for the obvious and immediate victims.