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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Raw, Emotional Sandy Hook Memoir Deeply Touching, Inspiring

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

On December 14, 2012, in a small town in southwestern Connecticut, the unthinkable happened.  Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old man who had just mudered his mother, forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School.  He proceeded to shoot and kill twenty first graders and six staff members before committing suicide.  His violent actions left a peaceful town and a stunned nation in horrified shock.  

Among the dead was 6-year-old Emilie Parker, a sweet little girl who loved art and the color pink.  In the wake of the shooting, her grief-stricken parents—Alissa and Robbie—struggled to understand such a senseless act.  Faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they couldn't fathom how God had let such an atrocity happen.  Mostly, they missed and mourned their young daughter, who had been taken from them way too early in a terrifying, tragic way.  

Although Alissa Parker doesn't consider herself a writer, she wanted to share her story.  An Unseen Angel, a raw and heart-wrenching memoir, is the result.  In the book, she talks about the shooting, but she spends most of the pages discussing her long, rocky path to healing and forgiveness.  She doesn't sugarcoat things as she discusses her warring emotions, her bitterness in the wake of her loss, and her constant yearning for the one thing she can't have—more time with Emilie.  I especially love the parts where Parker talks about how learning to forgive Adam Lanza allowed her to not only find true peace but also to more fully feel Emilie's spirit as she moved forward with her life.  This passage has really stuck with me:

I finally came to the conclusion that I would never know [why Adam Lanza did what he did].  I would never fathom what was in his heart.  But God could.  God knew how to hold him accountable.  God knew how to judge him.  That burden was not for me to carry; rather, it was for me to lay down at God's feet.  It was not something I needed to grapple with for the rest of my life.  I didn't have to judge.  I didn't have to figure it out.

As I made this decision, a burden so deep and heavy it had nearly crushed me was physically lifted from me.  My heart burned with a joy so powerful it brought me to tears.  I had learned it was possible to forgive Adam Lanza, and that the first step for me was to choose to simply let go (137).

Told in straightforward, unadorned prose, An Unseen Angel is an emotional and powerful memoir.  It touched me deeply, more so than I imagined it would.  Parker's story made me cry; it made me think; and it made me look at my own struggles with a new perspective.  As sad as the subject matter is, An Unseen Angel focuses not on the shooting at Sandy Hook itself, but on the hope, healing, and grace that have come about because of it.

If you're looking for an inspiring, faith-promoting read, look no further.  Just be sure to have a box of tissues handy because you're definitely going to need them.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of An Unseen Angel from the generous folks at Shadow Mountain.  Thank you!


  1. I think this book sounds very sad, but also uplifting in a way. When life throws such tragic things our way, it's often hard not to question God. All I know is that He works in all circumstances. And good comes out of sorrow and tragedy. I've seen it in my own life. Thanks for sharing about this one. Not sure I'll pick it up, but I do appreciate the quote you shared. I believe that too.

    1. It's very sad, but also uplifting. Raw and real, though, which I appreciated. What I love most about the quote is that just the POSSIBILITY of being able to forgive was so freeing for Alissa Parker. God does indeed work in mysterious ways!

  2. Sounds very sad and I'm not sure if I'm in the mood now to read this, but I do want to give it a try.

    1. You should. It's sad but also very inspiring/faith-promoting.

  3. Did you know Emilie was Bruce Jepsons niece? I got to meet Alissa at a TOFW event. When she told her story there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

    1. Yes, I remember Bruce posting about his connection to her when the shooting happened. So sad.

  4. I’m glad it doesn’t focus on the shooting too much. I wouldn’t be able to handle that. Sounds like a heart wrenching read.

    1. Definitely heart-wrenching. I've never lost a child, so I really can't imagine what this mom went through. I'm glad she shared her story in such a real, raw way -- it definitely hit home for me.

  5. I'm glad it focuses on faith, hope, and healing. I think this would be a difficult book to read and you'd have to be in the right mindset to read it. So sad. :(

    1. That's true. I read it a couple weeks before I was supposed to give a talk on forgiveness, knowing that was a big part of Parker's story. I was focused on that aspect of it and that's what I found most inspiring.

  6. Wow. Just that quote you chose had me tearing up. I can see why you say have a box of tissues nearby when reading this book.

    1. It's a great quote, isn't it? It really struck me and I've been thinking about it ever since.

  7. Gosh this must be a tough read but sounds like it is worth it. Great review!

    1. Definitely a tough read but definitely worth it. Parker's story has really stuck with me -- for lots of different reasons.

  8. What a heartbreaker. I donated to the Sandy Hook Promise last year and now the picture of those children pop up in my feeds all the time. It always gives me pause. I have a 7 year old and can't even imagine. It's good to see that she's been able to come to terms with the tragedy.

    1. Heartbreaking, indeed. I hate any loss of innocent life, but when the victims are children and their lives are stolen in violent, vicious ways it's especially hard to take. My mother heart definitely aches for Alissa Parker and all the families who lost loved ones that day.


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