AT CLOSE RANGE: A MEMOIR
OF TRAGEDY AND ADVOCACY
By Leesa Ross
Categories: Nonfiction / Memoir / Personal Transformation / Advocacy
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
Publication Date: April 15, 2020
Scroll down for the giveaway!
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
HALL WAYS BLOG: REVIEW: So
much pain. So many questions. So little forgiveness. In At Close Range, Leesa
Ross takes readers along on the horrendous journey that no parent should ever
have to take, but one which too many have, and must continue to take: the death
of a child by gunshot wound. In her open
and bluntly honest memoir, Ross’s grief is palpable, her desperation washing over
Perhaps it’s inappropriate given the topic of the book, but
I’m going to go there and point out that it was the cover of At Close Range
that sold me on reading it. The jacket design is eye-catching and alluring,
even to someone like me who doesn’t own a gun, doesn’t like guns, wouldn’t care
if they were all wiped from the planet. (I know, I’m a native Texan and I said
that out loud.) However, I’m realistic and know that guns aren’t going
anywhere, and the simple message of the two items on that cover – a gun + lots
of padlocks – indicated a story I might be okay reading.
I think most mothers would say they’ve allowed the “what if”
thoughts of losing a child to enter their minds, and for me, those dark thoughts
are usually sparked by empathy and learning of someone who has lost a
child. I don’t want to think about the unthinkable, but when I encounter someone suffering that loss, I can’t help it. Until I read Leesa’s story, I had only thought
broadly about gun safety in terms of laws that need to be made and enforced to
prevent mass shootings. Like Leesa:
“I never thought
to have the new version of The Talk. The one about handguns.”
While there are plenty of things I couldn’t relate to in
Ross’s very personal story, I’m a mom, and I’m a mom with my youngest son the same
age now as when Leesa’s son, Jon, died. Instant connections. By walking
side-by-side as Leesa tries to reconcile something that’s unreconcilable, the
reader can’t help but imagine being in her shoes. We never had “The Talk” about
handguns with our kids. We don’t own guns, so no need, right? Wrong. All my
kids, from ages 23-31, will now have to tolerate another Memo from Mom. It’ll
probably be one of those things I preface with telling them I am sure that they
know better BUT it’s other people’s actions I worry about. And I’m a
grandmother now, so you can bet that I’ll be teaching and preaching to my sweet
grandbaby every chance I get.
“Mom, it’s not the
gun that killed Jon.”
What’s particularly interesting about Leesa is that after
the tragedy that struck her own family, she’s not anti-gun. And neither are her
other children; in fact, her second son became a gun collector and very calmly
would remind his mom that the gun wasn’t the problem; that it was loaded, and the
owner was careless, and Jon was naïve (complacent?) about guns were the problems.
This line of thinking is difficult for me, but through those candid conversations
within the Ross family, I’ve expanded my understanding about gun lovers and maybe even become a
bit more open-minded.
“We have hundreds
of pages of safety rules for stepladders, I learned.”
The majority of At Close Range is Leesa’s grief
journey, and at times, the hops around the timeline were a little confusing and
sometimes repetitious – feeling more like a personal journal than a published memoir.
Through every stage of her grief, there’s a constant thread, an almost obsessive
compulsion, of the author to find answers about the exact circumstances of Jon’s
death. (I know I would have the same obsession.) She often refers to channeling
her inner Nancy Drew, and she finds strength and confidence in that role. In her
quest to find answers, she ultimately turns her despair into a mission to save
Regrettably, Leesa’s foray into being a gun safety advocate
doesn’t get much page time. The gaps in that part of her journey leave me a
little unsatisfied. I not only want to know more about getting to the point where
Lock Arms for Life was born, I also need a little more time to come out of the
fog of despair, to absorb Leesa’s finding her purpose, and to feel hopeful that
Leesa’s organization can effect change. Perhaps there’s another book in the
works that explores those elements, or perhaps we’re supposed to still ache a
bit when we close the cover. After all, it’s not a happy ending.
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.
GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
FIVE WINNERS each get a hardcover copy of At Close Range.
US Only. Ends midnight, CST, 2/26/21
a Rafflecopter giveaway
CLICK TO VISIT THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE
FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY,
or visit the blogs directly:
Blog Tour Services Provided by