Monday 28 March 2022

About A Son by David Whitehouse #AboutASon @d_whitehouse @Phoenix_Bks @FrancescaPear @francescamain @Hairy007 #BookReview


On the evening of Halloween in 2015, Morgan Hehir was walking with friends close to Nuneaton town centre when they were viciously attacked by a group of strangers. Morgan was stabbed, and died hours later in hospital. He was twenty years old and loved making music with his band, going to the football with his mates, having a laugh; a talented graffiti artist who dreamed of moving away and building a life for himself by the sea.

From the moment he heard the news, Morgan's father Colin Hehir began to keep an extraordinary diary. It became a record not only of the immediate aftermath of his son's murder, but also a chronicle of his family's evolving grief, the trial of Morgan's killers, and his personal fight to unravel the lies, mistakes and cover-ups that led to a young man with a history of violence being free to take Morgan's life that night.

Inspired by this diary, About a Son is a unique and deeply moving exploration of love and loss and a groundbreaking work of creative non-fiction. Part true crime, part memoir, it tells the story of a shocking murder, the emotional repercussions, and the failures that enabled it to take place. It shows how grief affects and changes us, and asks what justice means if the truth is not heard. It asks what can be learned, and where we go from here.

About A Son by David Whitehouse is published by Phoenix on 28 April 2022 in hardback. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I have been reading About A Son for quite a few weeks now. This is a book that delivers massive emotional punches on almost every page. My feelings went from terrible sadness, to incredible anger and back again, many times. When I began reading this book, my Mum was terminally ill. I finished reading it the evening that she died. I have my own grief to deal with, but my circumstances are so far away from Colin and Sue Hehir's. Their story is one that they should never have had to tell, it's a story of the murder of a young man in the prime of his life, and the aftermath that they continue to endure. It almost broke me in parts, but I took strength from their ability to carry on. I don't know how they do it. 

David Whitehouse is an award winning author. He was sent the manuscript of Colin Hehir's diary by a Nuneaton reporter. He admits that at first he didn't know what to do with it, or if he had the strength to deal with it. When Colin contacted him directly, David knew that he had to tell this story. 

Every single one of us will experience grief in our lives. For most of us, it will be something that is expected, sometimes, when someone is suffering, it can be welcomed. Grief is a an emotion that is personal and individual, every single one of us will deal with our emotions in a different way. 

I do not know anyone personally who has been murdered. I do not know any family who has had to deal with the horror of discovering that your loved one has been taken from you by the hand of another human being. 

Colin and Sue Hehir are an ordinary couple, living in an ordinary town, doing ordinary jobs. They were proud of their boys. Morgan was twenty years old, he enjoyed music, art and sport. He had friends, he worked in a local hospital. He was ordinary, but to his family he was, quite rightly, extraordinary. 

Morgan was murdered when he and his friends were attacked by a group of strangers. It was another ordinary night in Nuneaton. Morgan and his friends were looking forward to a night on the town, laughing and joking, dressed for Halloween. Minding their own business, just being lads. 

Colin Hehir is not an academic, or a writer. However, he was compelled to keep a diary of everything that happened to him and his family after that night, and it is both powerful and devastating. Most of us see reports on the news about a tragic murder, this is often followed by reports of an arrest, a court case and then a sentence. These things did happen in this case, but it is the tiny details that Colin records, the things that the general public don't learn about that turn this into such a eye opening and heart shattering account. 

There were times when I had to stop reading. There are parts of the British justice system that are abhorrent, things that happened to Colin and Sue that defy everything that we believe about victim's rights. When you are told that you cannot go into the hospital room, to see your murdered son because he is now 'a crime scene', how do you cope?  I was angry, and sad and just totally devastated on their behalf. 

It doesn't stop there either. The strength and fortitude shown by Colin and his wife, ensuring that Morgan's death was investigated properly and that every single one of the the terrible things that happened were made public is incredibly moving. They have done everything in their power to ensure that Morgan is never forgotten and that, maybe, future incidents such as these will be handled better. 

This is a book that will never leave me. I feel as though I know the family so very well. I have nothing but admiration for this incredible family, and for Morgan's friends and associates. Nothing will ever bring him back and I'm positive that Colin would rather have never had to write his diary, but we should be grateful that the did. 

Wonderfully re-worked by David Whitehouse from Colin's own words, with compassion and understanding and at times, a little touch of humour. Incredible and a must-read. 

David Whitehouse is the author of three novels: BED, winner of the Betty Trask Prize and currently
being made into a film by Film4, MOBILE LIBRARY, winner of the Jerwood Fiction Prize, and THE LONG FORGOTTEN.

His journalism has appeared in the Guardian, Esquire, Observer, Sunday Times Style and many other publications.

He was previously the Editor-at-Large of ShortList Magazine. 

Twitter @d_whitehouse

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