Nicola Maye Goldberg’s kaleidoscopic “Nothing Can Hurt You” explores the aftermath of a college student’s death through a chorus of disparate voices. In 1997, Sarah Morgan was killed in the woods near her liberal arts college in update New York. She was not the victim of convicted serial killer John Logan. Her death was tragically prosaic. Blake Campbell, Sara’s boyfriend, confessed to her murder. He avoided prison through a plea of temporary insanity. Today he is married, and has a daughter.
Goldberg’s novel uses a restrained voyeuristic approach: it watches, it observes, it does not do much editorializing. It is powerful precisely because it doesn’t preach, or offer pointed epiphany’s about the ripple effect of violence, or marinate on its consequences. Goldberg presents her readers with a smorgasbord of characters — the woman who discovered Sara’s body; her half-sister; the teenager Sara used to babysit, who is writing to John Logan in prison; the local court reporter; and that’s barely the tip of the iceberg —and offers a snapshot of their lives; years, months, or days after Sara’s death, which has affected them in various ways; some obvious, some subtle. But the scars are there.
These anecdotes are transcribed in different styles and narrations: first-person, third, letters. Some characters fleetingly reappear, but the point of “Nothing Can Hurt You” isn’t to develop a contrived relationship between its cast. It doesn’t build to a grand crescendo where they unite. It’s refreshing and impactful because it ignores the conventions of the archetypal crime novel. This is a story of violence and its aftermath. It’s unsettling because it doesn’t provide answers — there are none. There is just life, which carries on, mercilessly and mercifully.
Number Of Pages: 224
Published: 4th August 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Country of Publication: GB