Rebecca's Reviews > Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder

Visiting Hours by Amy E. Butcher
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really liked it
bookshelves: memoirs, read-via-netgalley, true-crime, mental-health

The facts are simple: one night towards the end of their senior year at Gettysburg College (2009), Kevin Schaeffer walked Butcher home from a drunken outing, then stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death. This book has elements of a true crime narrative, detailing the crime and speculating on possible causes for Kevin’s psychotic episode – he was coming down from a high dose of antidepressants, and may have been making a second suicide attempt when Emily stopped him – but it’s more about how the crime affected Butcher. Knowing that a good friend was a murderer forced her to revisit her memories of their time together, and left her with a form of PTSD that visiting him in prison several years later did little to ameliorate.

This is a concise and gripping narrative reminiscent of Half a Life by Darin Strauss. I’m surprised by the low ratings here; people seem to be reacting against Butcher’s presumption to write about a case she wasn’t directly involved in. I would argue, though, that it’s precisely that slight removal from the case that allows her to comment: she pores over all the details available on the public record, but also insists that the facts don’t tell the full story; neither do her admittedly fuzzy memories. Ultimately, Kevin’s motivation remains a mystery. I appreciated Butcher’s sensitive examination of mental health issues. It also helped that I had visited Gettysburg the week before reading this, so the sites were fresh in my mind.

Related reading: Give Me Everything You Have is James Lasdun’s account of being a victim of online stalking. It has a similar true crime vibe in places but is, again, more of a personal reflection. I also think to mention it because it’s a book I loved that has (inexplicably, if you ask me) earned much vitriol on Goodreads.
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Reading Progress

February 25, 2015 – Shelved
February 25, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
April 19, 2015 – Started Reading
April 20, 2015 –
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: memoirs
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: read-via-netgalley
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: true-crime
April 21, 2015 – Finished Reading
April 12, 2016 – Shelved as: mental-health

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