I got to read an advance copy of Amy Butcher's book Visiting Hours through Penguin's firsttoread.com website. It's the true story of a college friendship between two small-town kids, Amy and Kevin. Only one night, Kevin suddenly and viciously kills his girlfriend in a psychotic rage. Visiting Hours is Amy's story of trying to understand and remain friends, despite all the distance that develops after his arrest and conviction.
I wanted to like this book, I really did. Amy Butcher has a mastery of description. As she described scenes from college, I could picture what she was describing with pinpoint accuracy. She had me hooked for almost 100 pages with her way with words and detailed portrayals.
And then I realized that I was 100 pages in to the book, and nothing had happened.
Yes, her friend had brutally killed his girlfriend. But that's all. She hadn't been to the prison to visit him (which I thought might happen sooner in a book titled "Visiting Hours"). She had finally thought to get the police records from that night, but she hadn't talked to anyone. No interviews with the officers on the scene. Nothing from witnesses. Or lawyers. Or a psychologist, despite his break from reality being blamed on his sudden withdrawal from antidepressants. There was very little talk of the victim. She didn't even seem to talk to those who were in college with them, who had been their friends.
This seemed more like her journal, where she was working through her personal feelings and trying to understand how the killing could have happened. Which is fine. But it's not something I'd want to read.
The point where she completely lost me is when she was thinking about the last time she had spent a warm moment with her friend Kevin, hours before the killing. He made a corny joke and she laughed, and later she was lamenting how awful that was as a last memory. Meh. It's not so bad, if you consider what his girlfriend had as a last memory. Or her parents. Or her friends. There are far worse things than a bad joke.
I hope that Amy Butcher continues to write. But first, I think, she needs to learn a lot more about the world so that her writing ability can be matched by having more interesting things to say.