There is a story about violence in America. It writes itself everyday on college campuses and schoolyards, in bedrooms and office buildings, playgrounds, parking lots, recruiting centers, movie theaters and Walmarts. It is the story of our time. It writes itself continuously and cannot, will not stop.
Clayton Kabede is a regular New York City kid, the son of immigrant parents, living in the basement unit of an upscale apartment building where his father works as the superintendent. Lee Fisher lives in the penthouse of that same building wealthy, paranoid and armed. One night while sleepwalking, Clayton knocks on Fisher’s door. A gun explodes senselessly. The Shooting is the story of the journey to this moment, and with his fourth novel, James Boice boldly takes us to it origins: starting, perhaps, with Clayton’s parents and their harrowing emigration to the United States. Or beginning instead with small, neglected Lee Fischer, growing up in a country mansion filled with paranoia and privilege, and the unshakeable influence of a gun-obsessed father.
Lee grows up certain his duty is to protect the sheep of the country, who are blind to what is happening in America, who ignore the enemies that now live within our borders, who have willingly given up their freedom. As a college freshman at NYU, Lee brings with him the only thing that matters from home, the gun his father gave him. Quickly dropping out, Lee struggles through a series of a jobs, trying to fit in among an infuriating population he cannot relate to, but has nevertheless vowed to protect. His apartments grow larger, he fathers a child, all the while becoming more and more isolated. Meanwhile, born of the tragic circumstances that led to his parents fleeing their country, Clayton grows up big-hearted and ambitious. He sees a lot of unfairness in the world, in his city, and is determined to change it. But right now, he’s a teenager, he’s in love with a girl, and life is full of the people who will support him in his life.
Around Clayton and Lee, the past and future lives of a sprawling cast of characters wraps and intersects with their singular encounter. The novel is populated by these Sheeple,” as Boice calls them. And yet, despite the name, everyone is responsible for their own destiny. The results are surprising, hopeful, terrifying, as people are swept up by Clayton’s murder: the nation’s leading gun control advocate whose own child was killed in a school shooting; the affluent bankers' kids Clayton clashes with on the street; the doctor who once declined to help the struggling Kabede family; the career Blackwater-style mercenary who gets caught up in the protests over Clayton’s murder; Lee’s college roommates and his cellmates in prison; the little sister of Clayton’s best friend; responding police officers, police academy instructors, journalists, and the prosecuting DA.
No city is better suited to be the setting for James Boice’s tour-de-force about gun violence. No writer is better suited to brining together the scope and range of experiences set forth in this novel, and making each and every portrait intimate, blistering and surprising. The encounter between Kabede and Fisher, like gun violence itself, is one that Boice imprints on our national identity, bloodied by its own most sacred myths. (James Boice is the author of three previous novels, MVP, NoVA, and The Good & the Ghastly, all published by Scribner.)