Review & Giveaway: At Close Range by Leesa Ross


By Leesa Ross
Categories: Nonfiction / Memoir / Personal Transformation / Advocacy
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
Pages: 192
Publication Date: April 15, 2020

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Leesa Ross did not expect to write a book. Neither did she expect the tragedy that her family endured, a horrific and sudden death that led her to write At Close Range. Her debut memoir is the story of what happened after her son Jon died in a freak gun accident at a party. Ross unsparingly shares the complexities of grief as it ripples through the generations of her family, then chronicles how the loss of Jon has sparked a new life for her as a prominent advocate for gun safety.  Before the accident, Ross never had a motivation to consider the role that guns played in her life. Now, she revisits ways in which guns became a part of everyday life for her three sons and their friends.

Ross’s attitude towards guns is thorny. She has collectors and hunters in her family. To balance her advocacy, she joined both Moms Demand Action and the NRA. Through At Close Range, the national conversation about gun control plays out in one family’s catalyzing moment and its aftermath. However, At Close Range ultimately shows one mother’s effort to create meaning from tragedy and find a universally reasonable position and focal point: gun safety and responsible ownership.

Purchase: Texas Tech University Press

At Close Range: A Memoir of Tragedy and Advocacy by Leesa Ross is a sobering story of loss and the choices a person can make after. In typical fashion, I did not read the summaries or blurbs before reading this book, so I will be addressing the many assumptions that I made in addition to my thoughts on the writing specifically. First of all, I assumed that this book was written by a mother who lost a small child in one of the terrible school shootings that have happened in our country. It is not; but that does not make the story any less tragic.

As the mother of an 8-year-old boy, I know that even when my son has grown taller than me and possibly has children of his own, I will always want to protect him. And God forbid if anything ever happened to him, I would want answers and maybe even look for meaning behind it all. It is never the right time to lose someone you love. Ross lost her first-born son just as he was turning over a new leaf. For a young man in his early 20s, Jon contained thoughts and artistic abilities that the people in his life did not understand. So when his life is ended, presumably with his own hand, the authorities are quick to call it a suicide.

Ross’s choice to recreate the scene in the first chapter was unexpected and powerful. I don’t know how much of it was accurate, but it really gave me the sense that the author knew her son in a way that many parents who live in a completely different state do not know their own children. No one knows what Jon’s state of mind was, but this opening definitely underlines the feeling that everything that transpired next was not premeditated. If this were my own story, I can tell you that this would have quickly become an investigation rather than an advocacy message.

The author’s writing style is clean and easy to follow. There were a few passages where it seemed an idea or even a whole paragraph was echoed pages later. But otherwise, the writing and editing were solid. While the tone switches between emotional and factual, the strength behind the words is ever present. I am in awe of Ross’s ability to stand up and seek change to protect others from pain like hers. If this book is an indication of her oratory skills, I am sure that she is educating so many people and making a real difference in their lives.

I recommend this book to people who have children or young people in their lives. I like the idea of having “The New Talk” about gun safety. I only wish that there was a resource page within it. Although, to be fair, it is easy enough to simply look for Lock Arms for Life and Texas Gun Sense online. I think that this book would also be a good gift to someone you care about who does not take gun safety seriously. Unfortunately, I think many of us can think of at least one person like this. Perhaps this book can be a safe conversation starter.



Leesa Ross is a debut author who’s transformed a tragedy into a mission for safety. After losing a son to a shooting accident, she formed Lock Arms for Life, an educational organization teaching gun safety. A Texas mother of three, she leads Lock Arms, sits on the board of Texas Gun Sense, and belongs to the NRA.



FIVE WINNERS each get a hardcover copy of At Close Range.

US Only. Ends midnight, CST, 2/26/21

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3 responses to “Review & Giveaway: At Close Range by Leesa Ross

  1. Great review, and you are right: her words are powerful.

  2. Thank you for the kinds words in your review! You understand my message of love and safety.

  3. Pingback: New book reviews are on target | Lock Arms for Life

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