‘Things You Won’t Say’ by Sarah Pekkanen: Extremely thoughtful and timely


Rating: 5 stars

Sarah Pekkanen’s newest book, “Things You Won’t Say,” is not just a book about a cop who shoots a teenager who happens to be a member of a minority. It’s about family, trust, and above all — making mistakes. We all make mistakes. When a cop shoots someone — if it’s a mistake or not — it’s a horrible thing. For the cop, his family, his friends, and, of course, for the victim’s family.

Pekkanen carefully crafts the story so that the reader doesn’t know whether or not Mike, the husband of the main third person narrator, Jamie, shot at a kid with a gun or just shot a kid who he thought had a gun. And while that was an important point in the career and life of Mike the cop, the story is about so much more.

There are three important women in the story, and the narration is told from each of their points of view. It’s a natural progression and it all reads seamlessly. Christie is the woman with whom Mike had a child before meeting Jamie. They share custody and it works. Henry, their son, is a great kid. Lou is Jamie’s younger sister. Jamie raised Lou after their mother died when Lou was twelve, so this is the first time that Lou feels that Jamie needs her.

Jamie is the main character, and she is the one going through a crisis (Mike is definitely a secondary character — this is about how the family deals with crisis). Mike’s long-time partner, Richie, had been seriously shot just before this crisis, and another young cop was killed. And Mike feels somehow to blame. As they were exiting the police station, Mike first, he pulled back and held the door for Richie with a joking comment. A gunman was waiting for them. Jamie feels lucky that it was Richie who is in the hospital room, and of course she also feels incredibly guilty that she feels that way.

Mike understandably has been stressed since that incident. So when the teenager dies by Mike’s hand, and his temporary partner claims that there was no gun, Jamie doesn’t know what to believe. She’s seen Mike’s forgetfulness, his imagination playing tricks on him (thinking there was an intruder when in reality he left a door open), and other signals that he just wasn’t ready to be back at work. But like most cops, Mike believes he is tough and refuses medication or therapy.

When Jamie doesn’t tell Mike that she believes in him, that she believes that there was a gun, he withdraws from her. The other two women, Lou and Christie, are also going through changes in their lives.

All of the main characters in the story make mistakes. And they all suffer from their mistakes to some degree. It’s how they deal with their mistakes and how others deal with mistakes that make this book fascinating and realistic. None of us is perfect, but we all hope to perfectly deal with the mistakes we all make.

Sometimes you just have to do the best you can. And Pekkanen has given her readers something to think about. Mistakes. When they hurt others, that’s when you just try your hardest to make up for them. Of course, some mistakes, like shooting someone, can never be made up. They last forever.

For other Pekkanen books you’ll enjoy, pick up “Catching Air” and “The Best of Us.”

Please note: This review is based on the final trade paperback provided by the publisher, Washington Square Press, for review purposes.