If We Had Known

If We Had Known

by Elise Juska


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A literary tour de force from the acclaimed author of The Blessings-a riveting new novel about one of the most urgent crises of our time.

One August afternoon, as single mother Maggie Daley prepares to send her only child off to college, their world is shattered by news of a mass shooting at the local mall in rural Maine. As reports and updates about the tragedy begin to roll in, Maggie, an English professor, is further stunned to learn that the gunman had been a student of hers: Nathan Dugan was an awkward, complicated young man whose quiet presence in her classroom had faded from her memory-but not, it seems, the memories of his classmates.

When a viral blog post hints at the existence of a dark, violence-tinged essay Nathan had written during Maggie's freshman comp seminar, Maggie soon finds herself at the center of a heated national controversy. Could the overlooked essay have offered critical red flags that might have warned of, or even prevented, the murders to come? As the media storm grows around her, Maggie makes a series of desperate choices that threaten to destroy not just the personal and professional lives she's worked so hard to build, but-more important-the happiness and safety of her sensitive daughter, Anna.

Engrossing and provocative, combining sharp plot twists with Juska's award-winning, trademark literary sophistication, IF WE HAD KNOWN is at once an unforgettable mother-daughter journey, an exquisite portrait of a community in turmoil, and a harrowing examination of ethical and moral responsibility in a dangerously interconnected digital world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781455561773
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 04/17/2018
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 484,401
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Elise Juska's fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Ploughshares, Gettysburg Review, The Missouri Review, Good Housekeeping, The Hudson Review, and many other publications. She is the recipient of the Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction from Ploughshares and her work has been cited in The Best American Short Stories. She lives in Philadelphia, where she is the director of the undergraduate creative writing program at the University of the Arts.

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If We Had Known 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Scorn9 More than 1 year ago
"If We Had Known" was a unique read that gave me chills. With all the shootings that have been happening, well...everywhere, I was honestly surprised I hadn't seen millions upon millions of books trying to hone in on the public interest. When I initially picked this book up, I was under the impression this book might try to do just that, but it was surprisingly and beautifully respectful. I did enjoy this book. I think it was an interesting ride all the way along, and it kept me hooked. There were a couple chapters where it was slow and I became bored, but overall it was an addicting ride. So, what are my pros and cons? Pros: 1. Different POVs - There are many different point of views in this story, and one of them is NOT the shooter (believe it or not). I appreciated watching the lives of many people fold out, and not just one. 2. Story Telling - I LOVE how Elise Juska told this story. Her choice of words and pace of the novel really fit well with this topic. I wouldn't change a thing in relation to this. 3. Intertwining Stories - When stories intertwine I get so giddy! All of these stories having effects on each other (some positive, some very negative) made the book just a little bit more exciting. I could guess some of the effects that they would have on each other, but it was still nice to see that things do effect other people. Cons: 1. Plot Device Characters - It felt like some characters were thrown in and taken out super fast just to move the plot along. I would have liked to see Anna's boyfriends a little bit more and see how things affected them. 2. Happily Ever After - Everything tied up so nicely at the end! I was kind of hoping to leave off on a weird note, and not a semi-happy note. Now, everybody who knows me knows I like happy/good endings, but I felt a little cheated with this one. There shouldn't have been a really good ending, and anybody who's been through something like this would tell you how honest that was. Overall, I really liked this book! There are definitely some minor problems with this book, but it was a worthy read! Four out of five stars!
Anonymous 17 days ago
Good book, but a strange, unfinished, abrupt ending. The story could have unfolded so much better and further.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Not bad read but a very weird ending.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Review Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A book that is about a few tough issues, but because the author confronts them so honestly with fantastic characters the book doesn't feel too heavy. A shooting happens at a mall in this small college town and this book doesn't focus on the actual event, but the moments after and the years before. I think the author really put an emphasis on how people need a place to point their fingers for the blame and the finger can go in many different directions. The main focus of the book is on a professor that the shooter had for freshman English and a paper he wrote. With the incident in everyone's mind this paper looks a little more like a warning of something possible happening in the future. And because of that she is blamed for not sending out warning signals and this sends her world into a tailspin. On top of that she has a daughter who lives with anxiety and all of these will affect her also and it is interesting to read from her perspective also.
JHSEsq More than 1 year ago
College English professor Maggie Daley is a single mother whose only child, Anna, is days away from leaving home to start college. Anna has struggled with anxiety in the wake of her parents' divorce four years ago. Luke Finch is a quiet college dropout who works at the donut shop and dreams of moving out of his father's house. Four years ago, Luke was one of Maggie's students in a freshman England composition course. As was Nathan Dugan, who penned an essay that, in hindsight, was troubling. Nathan was withdrawn, did not socialize with his fellow students, and tended to be dominating and off-putting when he did speak in class. When Nathan opens fire in a local mall, killing several people before taking his own life, questions swirl about his motivations. His single mother, with whom he resided, insists she had no idea how many guns he owned or how disturbed he was. In the aftermath of another episode of senseless, tragic violence, Maggie finds herself the focus of intense scrutiny and second-guessing: Could she have taken action that might have prevented Nathan's shooting spree and saved his victims? Should she have brought his essay, ostensibly a story about Nathan going on a hunting trip with his absent father but focused on weapons, to the attention of the college's administration? Media and public interest is heightened when Luke's observations about his classmate -- shared on Facebook -- go viral. With compassionate objectivity and insight, Elise Juska examines the impact of the shooting on Maggie, Luke, and Anna. As Maggie and Luke struggle with guilt, questioning whether they missed important signs and pondering whether their actions might have made a difference, Anna's anxiety reaches crisis proportions, especially after a brief relationship with a duplicitous fellow college student in whom she confided. If We Had Known is a compelling look at the insidious ways such a tragedy impacts and changes those touched -- even tangentially -- by the actions of a crazed gunman. And a reminder of how tenuous and delicate carefully constructed lives and relationships can be. It's also a look at the dissemination of information (and misinformation) via modern technology and the risk that the internet poses to those who are sensitive and vulnerable. If We Had Known is a story that resonates, and inspires contemplation and discussion not just about gun control, but also about the effects of being digitally, but perhaps not emotionally, connected to each other. Thanks to NetGalley for an Advance Reader's Copy of the book!