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.
Tuesday, April 17 at 7:00 pm
Main Point Books
116 N. Wayne Avenue
Wayne, PA 19087
Thursday, April 26 at 7:00 pm
Open Book Bookstore
7900 High School Road
Elkins Park, PA 19027
Monday, May 7 at 7:00 pm
10 Langley Road
Newton, MA 02459
Wednesday, May 16 at 7:30 pm
Free Library of Philadelphia
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(with Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds)
Wednesday, July 25 at 12:00 pm
Portland Public Library
Literary Lunch Series
w/ Paul Doiron, author of Stay Hidden
5 Monument Square
Portland, ME 04101
In elegant, gripping prose, If We Had Known offers a startling and empathetic look at the humanity behind the all-too-frequent headlines. Juska has produced that rarest and best kind of literature—a page-turner with a message and a heart.
A tender, whip-smart meditation on the origins and aftermath of tragedy. Here, Juska asks us an important and quietly devastating question: in what ways are we responsible to and for each other?
Juska's story nests in a thicket of current issues: social media, gun violence, teenage anxiety and anorexia, and the responsibility of academics with regard to troubled students. Well-written, realistic, and suspenseful to the point of dread.
What a gripping and wise book this is. Elise Juska's unparalleled ability to convey how a single tragic event reaches out to change the lives of many is on full and compelling display here. I love when I read a book like If We Had Known and discover my next go-to gift for all my favorite readers.
[A] bighearted novel... Juska's moving, multifaceted portrait of the Blessing family gleams like a jewel.
There's no shortage of novels about the quirks and tragedies of large families, but The Blessings is a uniquely poignant, prismatic look at an Irish-Catholic clan as it rallies after losing one of its own.
Fans of writers like Anne Tyler, Alice McDermott and even Richard Yates will revel in Juska’s resplendent novel detailing two decades in the life of the Blessing clan.