Justin St. Germain's mother was no pushover. She'd been an Army paratrooper, a determined business owner and a fiercely loving parent.
But St. Germain doesn't sugarcoat her, either. She had troubling and dangerous taste in men, which was a flaw that he believes claimed her life.
In his memoir "Son of a Gun," he writes of one new relationship: "She'd been sacrificing for so long that she didn't know how to live for herself, and so she gave up everything for yet another man."
St. Germain says he feared he would become abusive in his own relationships.
"One of the real takeaways of growing up around a lot of domestic violence is the fear of becoming that, and the knowledge that if you just go by statistics — I'm a white man from a working-class background who was around a lot of domestic violence — I fit the profile exactly," he told The Rumpus. "I was both the narrator and a member of the demographic that's perpetrating all this. It was a constant tension I was aware of. I could say how it affected me, but I don't really know how it affected her."
While St. Germain uses his mother's murder as the memoir's vehicle, his work expands to a piece on domestic violence in America.
"Guns and violence form the weather system roiling throughout St. Germain's memoir, and his deceptively nonchalant prose both cushions and perpetuates the shock of the injuries they precipitate," writes Alexandra Fuller in The New York Times. "From the murder of his own mother, to the killing of a neighbor by her husband, to St. Germain's part in the youthful — dare I say playful — pellet-gun shooting of three girls, the writing is so matter-of-fact it reflects the casualness with which such cruelty is accepted in certain strata of our society."