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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.
Purchase: Texas Tech University Press
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.
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FIVE WINNERS each get a hardcover copy of At Close Range.
US Only. Ends midnight, CST, 2/26/21
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