Kate Grosmaire, with Nancy French. Forgiving My Daughter’s Killer: A True Story of Loss, Faith, and Unexpected Grace. Nashville: Nelson Books, 2016. See here to buy the book.
Andy and Kate Grosmaire had a daughter named Ann. Ann had a boyfriend, Conor, who was practically part of the Grosmaire family. But Conor shot Ann in the head. The Grosmaires were not saints. They would admit that. Andy and Kate got into an argument at a grocery store, and one of their therapists told them that they really shouldn’t be together! Yet, the Grosmaires managed to forgive their daughter’s killer. They pursued a path of restorative justice rather than strictly punitive justice: Conor would spend time in jail for a period of time, learning and growing rather than rotting away there. And Conor would perform acts of restitution. These acts would include speaking to teens about teen violence and serving the causes that Ann cared about, particularly animal rescue.
I decided to read this book to learn how to forgive better. If I could see how someone could forgive a person in an extreme case—-the murder of a loved one—-then perhaps that could help me forgive people for far lesser things. Kate did talk about various motivations behind her forgiveness: her realization that she has made mistakes herself; her recognition of what she was capable of doing (i.e., she almost ran someone over in her younger years when she was angry); her refusal to limit her daughter’s life to being a victim of murder; God’s command that she forgive; and her desire for inner peace. She acknowledges that forgiveness has been a struggle. This was particularly the case after Conor told her the story of Ann’s murder. At times, Kate did not even want to see Conor. Yet, she went through the motions and walked the path of forgiveness.
Even after reading Kate’s motivations behind her forgiveness, I find that it is difficult to make myself believe and internalize the insights that can make me a more forgiving person. That is why I especially appreciated the book’s insight that we can start where we are, and become more forgiving as we learn.
For example, one of the people in the book, Sujatha, was a restorative justice advocate, and Sujatha was telling her story about how she became involved in that line of work. Sujatha was abused as a child, and she went to law school to become a prosecutor who would put child abusers behind bars. She was very angry, and she was becoming concerned about this. She got an audience with the Dalai Lama, who suggested that she meditate and open her heart to her enemies. Sujatha replied that she would never open her heart to her enemies. “Okay, okay, then you just meditate,” the Dalai Lama responded. Sujatha forgave her father as she meditated. She became a defense attorney to defend abused women who shot their husbands, but she found herself defending abusers, as well. She heard their stories and found that many of them were people like her, with similar experiences, and they wanted to apologize and make restitution for what they did. She found that the legal system, as it was, was not very conducive to restitution or apologies: one side wanted punishment for the person who did wrong, and the other side would deny wrongdoing to escape punishment. That was how Sujatha became involved in restorative justice.
The book was especially effective in describing how restorative justice could clash with the judicial system as it is currently set up. I did have some difficulty, as a reader, experiencing Kate’s forgiveness of Conor with her. I identified more with Kate’s stories about trying to get along with her husband, and Sujatha’s story also resonated with me (though I was not abused as a child). But I respect Kate’s insights because they helped her on the journey of forgiveness.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher through BookLook Bloggers, in exchange for an honest review.