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From journalist David Kushner, a regular contributor to "The New Yorker," "Rolling Stone," and other premiere outlets, "Alligator Candy" is a reported memoir in the vein of "The Night of the Gun" about how a family survives an unthinkable tragedy. David Kushner grew up in the suburbs of Florida in the early 1970s, running wild with his friends, exploring, riding bikes, and From journalist David Kushner, a regular contributor to "The New Yorker," "Rolling Stone," and other premiere outlets, "Alligator Candy" is a reported memoir in the vein of "The Night of the Gun" about how a family survives an unthinkable tragedy. David Kushner grew up in the suburbs of Florida in the early 1970s, running wild with his friends, exploring, riding bikes, and disappearing into the nearby woods for hours at a time. One morning in 1973, however, everything changed. David's older brother Jon, making a trip to the local convenience store, vanished. This is the story of Jon's murder at the hands of two sadistic drifters and everything that happened after. "Alligator Candy "isn't only the chronicle of Jon's death, it is also the story of how parenting in America changed, casting light on the transition between two generations of children one raised on freedom, the other on fear. Jon's death was one of the first in what turned out to be a rash of child abductions and murders that dominated headlines for much of the 1970s and 80s. It was around this time that milk cartons began to feature the images of missing children, and newscasters began asking, It's 10:00, do you know where you children are? When one of Jon's killers received a parole hearing, David revisited the case that had so haunted him. Marshalling his skills as a journalist, he compiled all the details that he was sheltered from as a child, interviewing neighbors, reporters, cops, and his own family, and combing through yellowed news clippings. Haunting and intimate, "Alligator Candy" is a moving, disturbing, insightful, and inspiring meditation on grief, growth, family, and survival."


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From journalist David Kushner, a regular contributor to "The New Yorker," "Rolling Stone," and other premiere outlets, "Alligator Candy" is a reported memoir in the vein of "The Night of the Gun" about how a family survives an unthinkable tragedy. David Kushner grew up in the suburbs of Florida in the early 1970s, running wild with his friends, exploring, riding bikes, and From journalist David Kushner, a regular contributor to "The New Yorker," "Rolling Stone," and other premiere outlets, "Alligator Candy" is a reported memoir in the vein of "The Night of the Gun" about how a family survives an unthinkable tragedy. David Kushner grew up in the suburbs of Florida in the early 1970s, running wild with his friends, exploring, riding bikes, and disappearing into the nearby woods for hours at a time. One morning in 1973, however, everything changed. David's older brother Jon, making a trip to the local convenience store, vanished. This is the story of Jon's murder at the hands of two sadistic drifters and everything that happened after. "Alligator Candy "isn't only the chronicle of Jon's death, it is also the story of how parenting in America changed, casting light on the transition between two generations of children one raised on freedom, the other on fear. Jon's death was one of the first in what turned out to be a rash of child abductions and murders that dominated headlines for much of the 1970s and 80s. It was around this time that milk cartons began to feature the images of missing children, and newscasters began asking, It's 10:00, do you know where you children are? When one of Jon's killers received a parole hearing, David revisited the case that had so haunted him. Marshalling his skills as a journalist, he compiled all the details that he was sheltered from as a child, interviewing neighbors, reporters, cops, and his own family, and combing through yellowed news clippings. Haunting and intimate, "Alligator Candy" is a moving, disturbing, insightful, and inspiring meditation on grief, growth, family, and survival."

30 review for Alligator Candy: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    A harrowing family memoir about the murder of the author’s brother in 1973, when he was four and Jon was 11. Along with their older brother, the boys grew up Jewish in Tampa, Florida, with an anthropology professor for a father and a childbirth educator for a mother. One day Jon was riding his bike back through the woods from 7-Eleven when two sadistic misfits hit him over the head, gagged him and put him in the trunk of their car, where he proceeded to suffocate to death. To add insult to injur A harrowing family memoir about the murder of the author’s brother in 1973, when he was four and Jon was 11. Along with their older brother, the boys grew up Jewish in Tampa, Florida, with an anthropology professor for a father and a childbirth educator for a mother. One day Jon was riding his bike back through the woods from 7-Eleven when two sadistic misfits hit him over the head, gagged him and put him in the trunk of their car, where he proceeded to suffocate to death. To add insult to injury, they abused and mutilated his body and buried him in a shallow grave. Kushner loops back again and again to chronicle what little he remembers about the terrifying days when his family didn’t know what happened to Jon, the extra facts he learned in the years to come, and the full story he pieced together as an adult trained as a journalist, including the killers’ backgrounds and motivations. This makes for quite a lot of repetition, which might be reflective of the family’s ongoing trauma but is hard on a reader – the facts of Jon’s murder are so disturbing it is a terrible thing to be continually reminded of them. Two things stood out for me about this book: the overwhelming guilt Kushner felt, even decades later, about asking Jon to buy him a special alligator candy dispenser at the store (would he have even gone if it wasn’t for his little brother’s request?) and the sense of a prelapsarian time when parents could give their children the freedom to roam. Jon’s murder was followed in quick succession by a number of other child abductions and murders, leading to a whole new parental protectionism across America.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Trey

    4.5 Haunting, true crime memoir forceful enough to leave a lasting mark. Kushner literally slaps a rear naked choke on this beast of a memory and tames it to a point where: 1). Discoveries can be examined -What exactly happened? How did this shape him as a person? 2). Answers may ameliorate a heart, spirit, life and family. -His parents as heroes and bastions during a turbulent time -The light and dark side of human nature Kushner communicates a visceral requiem of loss, fear, endurance, love, resur 4.5 Haunting, true crime memoir forceful enough to leave a lasting mark. Kushner literally slaps a rear naked choke on this beast of a memory and tames it to a point where: 1). Discoveries can be examined -What exactly happened? How did this shape him as a person? 2). Answers may ameliorate a heart, spirit, life and family. -His parents as heroes and bastions during a turbulent time -The light and dark side of human nature Kushner communicates a visceral requiem of loss, fear, endurance, love, resurrection and legacy. Bronson Pinchot is simply perfect as narrator. Highly recommended. For sensitive readers: some descriptions of violence and profanity.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Richard Gilbert

    This story of the murder of Jon Kushner, at age 11, when his brother David, the author, was four, is skillfully told and becomes deeply moving. As a teacher, writer, and student of the memoir genre, I wondered how the author could write about an event that occurred when he was so young. But I really read it because when the murder occurred, in a Tampa suburb in October 1973, I was growing up directly across the state on the opposite coast. Florida memoirs seem a small subset of the burgeoning ge This story of the murder of Jon Kushner, at age 11, when his brother David, the author, was four, is skillfully told and becomes deeply moving. As a teacher, writer, and student of the memoir genre, I wondered how the author could write about an event that occurred when he was so young. But I really read it because when the murder occurred, in a Tampa suburb in October 1973, I was growing up directly across the state on the opposite coast. Florida memoirs seem a small subset of the burgeoning genre. Plus it was becoming a scary time in the state, with its diverse residents, endless tourists, and transient population—I had a close call myself in 1975. Alligator Candy brought back the early 1970s in the state as Kushner creates the backdrop for Jon's disappearance and harrowing murder. David was the last person to see him alive, as Jon headed out for the neighborhood 7-Eleven that day. The book is interestingly and complexly structured, as Kusner alternates time frames—shifting between events then, when he was a boy, and more recent ones, when he's an adult and a father himself—as he moves toward details of exactly what happened to Jon. That scenario, in contrast to his limited understanding as a child, took him decades to hear and then to fully piece together, using his skills as a journalist and author. Reading it was horrifying, not only because of the nature of the crime but because by then we've gotten to know Jon and the Kushner family. The Kushners were remarkable people, invested in social progress, active in their synagog and their three sons' school, nurturers of friendships. They tried to do everything right in the wake of Jon's death, including involving therapists and remaining open to the outpouring of concern from Tampa residents. Kushner seems critical only that his parents didn't spur much discussion within the family. But I'd wager most readers will marvel, as I did, at such strong, loving parents. Any parent surely has wondered how a parent can survive the death of a child. Though many families would have flown apart, here is how one staggered forward, keeping their love for Jon and his memory alive.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Steven Walle

    This was a great memoir of life and loss, hope and healing. It was very well written and heart felt. Enjoy and Be Blessed.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    This is a poignant telling by David Kushner. He relates his perspective upon his brother, Jon. Jon was murdered at 11 years of age. It details how his entire family is transformed by the crime. And the absence in its midst. And how their very perceptions of those days surrounding the disappearance are altered. Memories shift, so he is seeking the reporter's witness to the true reality. It's honest, truthful, and heartfelt. Sincere in a 5 star way. Because of the inherent heartbreak, guilt, horror This is a poignant telling by David Kushner. He relates his perspective upon his brother, Jon. Jon was murdered at 11 years of age. It details how his entire family is transformed by the crime. And the absence in its midst. And how their very perceptions of those days surrounding the disappearance are altered. Memories shift, so he is seeking the reporter's witness to the true reality. It's honest, truthful, and heartfelt. Sincere in a 5 star way. Because of the inherent heartbreak, guilt, horror and sorrow involved with the other 4 members of the family, it accurately portrays what happens in the "afterwards" to such crimes. He absolutely nails that fact. But because of the order of his own cognition to what happened, and how and why? And his facing the one perpetrator many years later when it needed to be done- because all of that scatters so much, the timing and redundancy becomes almost "out of order" for the telling. It doesn't make for a smooth flow- but does portent the roller coaster of knowledge to the reality. It was so truly accurate that victims are victimized forever as he descirbes. And that others say they "get it" but they actually don't. Especially when it comes to paroling those who perpetrate such a deed with introducing them back to society. They just don't get it. The repeat of the suffering does not diminish either for that process, but increases. His tribute to his brother was 4.5 star.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I read this in one sitting while on a flight. Beautifully, painfully written. This crime happened in my neighborhood, and the immediacy of the setting combined with the author's search for memory and truth made this personal and moving.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Robert Blumenthal

    David Kushner was four-years-old when his eleven-year-old brother rode his bike to the 7 Eleven to get some candy back in 1973 in the suburbs of Tampa, FL. He was never seen alive again. Kushner writes basically a true crime novel trying to piece together the story of his brother's death and how his parents, older brother Andy and the community came to grips with it. What makes this such a rewarding true crime book is that it is so personal. And it also has the added intrigue of it happening to David Kushner was four-years-old when his eleven-year-old brother rode his bike to the 7 Eleven to get some candy back in 1973 in the suburbs of Tampa, FL. He was never seen alive again. Kushner writes basically a true crime novel trying to piece together the story of his brother's death and how his parents, older brother Andy and the community came to grips with it. What makes this such a rewarding true crime book is that it is so personal. And it also has the added intrigue of it happening to the author at an age where most of the story is unknown. The author is a journalist for such publications as The New Yorker and Rolling Stone, and it definitely shows in the way he investigates and subsequently reports on the crime. The book is at times intriguing, at times compelling, and at times emotionally harrowing. He does go into pretty gruesome detail about the crime itself, which may be a bit much for the faint of heart or squeamish to bear. It was a pretty horrific crime which actually could have been much, much worse. Lastly, the author goes into reporting on the killers themselves, trying to make some sense out of why they would do this to a stranger. And he maintains a constant theme of how acts like this change the world both for the victims and the society in general. This book can be intense and almost lurid at times, but the emotional purity of it is so rich and rewarding. The way he describes his family and community is worth the ride.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Κική

    I don't know. I really don't know. I won Alligator Candy: A Memoir on Goodreads Giveaways and the publishing house had to send me a second copy to review, because the first one was lost in the mail. That meant that I had to wait almost four months to read it and now that I finally did, I am kind of disappointed that I did not love it. For those who do not know me (which is everyone), real crime is a subject I have been known to study, so me being squirmish did not play a part in my mixed feelings. I don't know. I really don't know. I won Alligator Candy: A Memoir on Goodreads Giveaways and the publishing house had to send me a second copy to review, because the first one was lost in the mail. That meant that I had to wait almost four months to read it and now that I finally did, I am kind of disappointed that I did not love it. For those who do not know me (which is everyone), real crime is a subject I have been known to study, so me being squirmish did not play a part in my mixed feelings. My main problem was the writing. I just wasn't crazy about it. It was too plain and at times repetitive. There were whole sentences that were repeated almost word for word, and I often caught myself thinking that it could have used a better editor, when I shouldn't have. I should have been more invested in the story. I mean, this wasn't a story. This was an actual crime and its consequences to the family left behind and the community that supported them, narrated by the victim's own brother. It should have provoked more emotions in me, but sadly it didn't. It's a really tough thing, reviewing someone's memoir. I have no doubt that David Kushner had the best intentions in digging up the memories surrounding his brother's murder. And at the end of the day, it does not matter that I did not connect with his grief. I still sincerely hope that putting all this on paper helped him find a way to deal with it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Peacegal

    We often read or hear about violent crime and tragedy without fully understanding there are real people caught up in those stories. In ALLIGATOR CANDY, the brother of a murder victim tries to make sense of the senseless.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Linda Byers

    A truly sad story. But a tedious and repetitive writing style. Like a textbook; understandable given the author's family background. I just couldn't muster the emotion I knew I should be feeling. So 2 stars leaning toward 3.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    The author was four years old when he asked his older brother Jon to buy him some gum when he rode his bike to the local convenience store. Jon never came home. Eight days later Jon’s mutilated body was discovered and life was never the same for David, his parents or his other brother. This is their story after the murder. David’s memories of the time were vague due to his age and what people felt he could handle, so years later he used his reporting skills to go back in time to discover the tru The author was four years old when he asked his older brother Jon to buy him some gum when he rode his bike to the local convenience store. Jon never came home. Eight days later Jon’s mutilated body was discovered and life was never the same for David, his parents or his other brother. This is their story after the murder. David’s memories of the time were vague due to his age and what people felt he could handle, so years later he used his reporting skills to go back in time to discover the truth behind Jon’s death. In doing so he uncovered many things, including what really happened, how the case was solved and what memories he had were true, while others were not. This is a family that remained together and strong despite what happened. Kushner attributes this to his parents’ ability to remain connected with others, sharing their pain and grief, while remaining compassionate people themselves. We often read about the victims in such tragedies, but this book shows how everyone who knew such a victim was affected by his death. But for the grace of God…

  12. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    I found this book to be such a mixture of tragedy and beauty that I could hardly put it down. The horrific murder of David Kushner's brother was heartbreaking, and he writes about his lifelong questioning of the whole situation - how it happened, who was involved and how it affected his family - in such a simple, straightforward way. Since he was only four when the murder occurred, he spent much of his life putting the pieces together. I'm in awe of his family and how they coped through this ord I found this book to be such a mixture of tragedy and beauty that I could hardly put it down. The horrific murder of David Kushner's brother was heartbreaking, and he writes about his lifelong questioning of the whole situation - how it happened, who was involved and how it affected his family - in such a simple, straightforward way. Since he was only four when the murder occurred, he spent much of his life putting the pieces together. I'm in awe of his family and how they coped through this ordeal, continuing to be kind, loving and "normal" (hate that word, but it just fits here) even through the darkest days that anyone can imagine. That's where the beauty comes into play. A really good read, in my opinion, and my heart goes out to the author and his family.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    This was a compelling story, marred by some sloppy writing or, more likely, editing--"peaked" when they meant "peeked," and sentences like: "This was a grassroots effort, the kind of which the city hadn't been seen before." There was also a certain amount of unnecessary repetition. However, it's a quick, interesting read and is in part an unusual perspective. The book is only partly about what happened to the author's brother in 1973; the perhaps more interesting part is his consideration of how This was a compelling story, marred by some sloppy writing or, more likely, editing--"peaked" when they meant "peeked," and sentences like: "This was a grassroots effort, the kind of which the city hadn't been seen before." There was also a certain amount of unnecessary repetition. However, it's a quick, interesting read and is in part an unusual perspective. The book is only partly about what happened to the author's brother in 1973; the perhaps more interesting part is his consideration of how his family survived the trauma of the boy's murder. So often you hear about relationships foundering after a terrible event like that, but the Kushner's stayed together and stayed open, caring parents and people. They must have been remarkable.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Koren

    This book wasn't quite what I thought it was going to be. The author investigates the murder of his brother as a child and the author was 4 years old. He didn't remember much about it because of his age and wanted to know more. I thought it would be about solving the murder but it was solved right away. I would have liked to know more about how the case was solved, but this was more about the author and his emotions following the death of his brother and how it effected his entire life. The book This book wasn't quite what I thought it was going to be. The author investigates the murder of his brother as a child and the author was 4 years old. He didn't remember much about it because of his age and wanted to know more. I thought it would be about solving the murder but it was solved right away. I would have liked to know more about how the case was solved, but this was more about the author and his emotions following the death of his brother and how it effected his entire life. The book itself was ok as a memoir of living with the death of a brother, but as a case study it is sadly lacking.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    I read this for book club a few months. I did not like it. The author is revisiting a family tragedy -partly to determine how accurate his memory is over the events and partly to - it seems to me - to maybe lay some fears to rest as he now has children of his own. His story is not interesting to me - his is not the only family to experience unbearable loss - (unfortunately) and this type of story isn't my cup of tea. There is nothing particularly special about his story/journey - and I want to b I read this for book club a few months. I did not like it. The author is revisiting a family tragedy -partly to determine how accurate his memory is over the events and partly to - it seems to me - to maybe lay some fears to rest as he now has children of his own. His story is not interesting to me - his is not the only family to experience unbearable loss - (unfortunately) and this type of story isn't my cup of tea. There is nothing particularly special about his story/journey - and I want to be clear here - the author never says his story is special or more valid. This seems like something he wrote more for himself - again, just not my cup of tea.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Karleen Brennan Turchin

    I currently live in the Tampa area, but wasn't living here when this murder happened, but I was curious to read this story. I work in the legal field and have done so for over 30 years. While I really enjoyed this book, I would have liked to have known more about the legal end of this horrible story. I am glad to see both of these murders will never see the outside light of day again.

  17. 5 out of 5

    David

    Kushner recounts the devastating story of his brother John's murder in a beautifully subtle and contemplative style (reminiscent of Patrick Dillon's very good book "Lost at Sea"); even the title has a quiet, heartbreaking aspect to it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    Sad at times due to the topic of young child's murder but author annoying in that he was extremely Repetitive and constantly interpreting his Theme which is insulting to the reader's intelligence.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Randee

    I cannot imagine anything worse in this life than having your child or sibling abducted, mutilated and murdered. My heart weeps for anyone who has had to experience something this awful. The worst moment of my life was taking my 3 nieces to a neighboring town's summer fair. They were 6, 8 and 10 at the time and the ten year old wanted to ride one of those circular rides that often makes one sick to their stomach. We watched her ride it standing at the fence; I was standing between the 6 and 8 ye I cannot imagine anything worse in this life than having your child or sibling abducted, mutilated and murdered. My heart weeps for anyone who has had to experience something this awful. The worst moment of my life was taking my 3 nieces to a neighboring town's summer fair. They were 6, 8 and 10 at the time and the ten year old wanted to ride one of those circular rides that often makes one sick to their stomach. We watched her ride it standing at the fence; I was standing between the 6 and 8 year old. I looked down and the 6 year old was no longer standing beside me. For anyone who has not experienced anything like this, I cannot begin to adequately describe the terror I felt. I learned how it felt to have one's legs turn to rubber. Every single story I had ever heard or read about a pedophile flashed through my mind. If anything happened to her, how would I live with myself, what could I possibly tell her parents, how was I going to find her in a crowd of thousands out on this warm summer evening? I contacted security immediately, answered their questions and found a hill to stand on tp survey the crowd. It felt like an eternity had gone by, but in reality it couldn't have been more than 10-15 minutes when I spotted her walking through the crowd. I ran down the hill and scooped her into my arms as she said with indignation, "Where were you guys?!!!" As if we had been the ones to wander away from her. I was so relieved I couldn't do more than give her a lecture on how badly she had worried us and she must never ever wander away. I knew quite well 'that there but the grace of God...' and have never quit being thankful that there was a happy ending. The author's family was not so lucky. His brother was abducted after riding his bike to the 7/11 back in 1973. Those were far more innocent days. Abducting and killing children didn't happen with the alarming regularly that it does today. All of us left our houses, rode our bikes and were out playing hours upon hours each day with our parents not really knowing exactly where we were except 'around the neighborhood.' I can remember my parents telling me to not accept candy from a stranger and not to get into any strangers cars but that was the extent of warnings my friends and I heard back then. How shockingly horrible this must have been to everyone in Tampa, Florida where it took place and everyone who heard about it. The author was only 4 years old but remembers his brother and is, of course, haunted by what happened to him. I hope writing this book was cathartic for him. I think he did a good job of delineating how his parents, his oldest brother and he got through it if only because there is no real alternative but to continue to live on despite being wounded and scarred forever. This is a painful story to read but an important one. It made me wish I believed in hell because there is no fitting punishment in this life for people who commit such crimes.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

    I have a lot of thoughts, many of which I won't write down, or that might come across not how I intend. This was a decent read, I appreciate David Kushner was willing to share this deeply tragic and personal story with us. I do recognize writing the book likely had a lot of value to him, hopefully towards healing, and shouldn't exactly be up for critique to others. Also, some important context. I literally read stories from incarcerated people all day I work. I am very anti death penalty and ver I have a lot of thoughts, many of which I won't write down, or that might come across not how I intend. This was a decent read, I appreciate David Kushner was willing to share this deeply tragic and personal story with us. I do recognize writing the book likely had a lot of value to him, hopefully towards healing, and shouldn't exactly be up for critique to others. Also, some important context. I literally read stories from incarcerated people all day I work. I am very anti death penalty and very pro opportunity for parole. (Although, I completely understand as a victim I would likely feel a change of heart- for better or worse). I felt like the writing was a bit repetitive, I think I could have gotten equal value from an essay lengthen piece of the story. It felt very personal and didn't touch a lot on opinions of criminal justice, or even treatment of trauma- which maybe I was looking for... This case definitely is not a good one to read and feels worse than many of the stories I hear. It was interesting told from the perspective of someone who in many ways, didn't feel the tragedy as it took place, because he was just so young, but rather felt it in how his family continued. I appreciate he includes some page space to discuss the offenders lives as well. The book was very very aptly named. I'm not sure I would recommend to be honest. It feels like the kind of case one (maybe even me) reads for the wrong reasons... sensationalized crime. It discusses the healing (or maybe just existing) to some extent, but to me felt like it hinged so much on the event itself. I think I will leave my review at that, mostly just some jumbled thoughts.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Canaves

    You know how shows like Dateline sensationalize crimes and do gross things like asking you to Tweet who you think the killer is? This is not that. This is the reality. The family behind the tragedy. Told by the youngest member of the family as he questions how his family lived through and continued on after the murder of his eleven-year-old brother. Having only been 4 at the time he tries to understand what he remembered at the time, and looks back at a life of trying to process the tragedy, whi You know how shows like Dateline sensationalize crimes and do gross things like asking you to Tweet who you think the killer is? This is not that. This is the reality. The family behind the tragedy. Told by the youngest member of the family as he questions how his family lived through and continued on after the murder of his eleven-year-old brother. Having only been 4 at the time he tries to understand what he remembered at the time, and looks back at a life of trying to process the tragedy, while also in retrospection seeing how his family members each got through together, and alone. This isn’t about the crime the way a true crime book would be, it isn’t told from that perspective. It’s about the victim’s youngest brother exploring his childhood, the time surrounding his brother’s murder, and how his family found a way to continue, marked by two times in his life where he finally faced learning the actual events of the horrific murder—eventually leading to his writing this memoir. This weaved effortlessly from memories of things like a specific childhood toy and exploring how differently children were raised in the ‘70s—along with specific crimes that changed missing children’s cases from being local to national news-- to the very raw and real questions and feelings that come with grief, especially after a tragedy. If we read to understand, this is certainly a book to read involving tragedy and grief: while raw in parts, and gut-wrenching, it reminds you of the human spirit and the ability, with community, to survive.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sunny Shore

    I like true crime, but this was different. Please read with caution even if you are a true crime fan. The worst thing, they say, is to lose a child. David Kushner's brother, Jon, 11, gets on his bike and rides to the local 7-11 in Tampa, Florida in 1973, promising 4 year old David some alligator candy, a popular sweet of the time and locale. Jon never returns. I listened to the audiobook and Bronson Pinchot, a wonderful actor, narrated this horrifying story but was able to convey the angst and s I like true crime, but this was different. Please read with caution even if you are a true crime fan. The worst thing, they say, is to lose a child. David Kushner's brother, Jon, 11, gets on his bike and rides to the local 7-11 in Tampa, Florida in 1973, promising 4 year old David some alligator candy, a popular sweet of the time and locale. Jon never returns. I listened to the audiobook and Bronson Pinchot, a wonderful actor, narrated this horrifying story but was able to convey the angst and sadness so that I could listen without stopping. Stop.... I wanted to so many times. But as a literary piece, it is a glowing example of the genre of memoir. The aftermath and how David, his other brother Andy and their parents endure this horrific nightmare brings you to a world that is unfathomable. I wanted to stop many times, because the story was so painful but Kushner's writing was so poignant and real, I felt obligated to share his pain, as well as feel I was gaining something from listening to this memoir. If you can get through the pain, experience Kushner (a writer for NY Times, etc.)'s purging of his soul, so to speak. If you can separate the pain from experiencing Kushner's journey, it is well worth your time.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    I'm a big fan of mystery/thrillers and read a lot of true crime. But this one.... This one got me. Told in 4 parts, Kushner takes the reader through each of the phases of his understanding of his brother Jon's murder. The first 2 parts cover his family history before the murder and how he, at age 4, understood what happened to Jon, age 11. It also includes his first attempts to find out the truth through newspaper articles around age 13. Parts 3 and 4 read more like true crime in that he takes th I'm a big fan of mystery/thrillers and read a lot of true crime. But this one.... This one got me. Told in 4 parts, Kushner takes the reader through each of the phases of his understanding of his brother Jon's murder. The first 2 parts cover his family history before the murder and how he, at age 4, understood what happened to Jon, age 11. It also includes his first attempts to find out the truth through newspaper articles around age 13. Parts 3 and 4 read more like true crime in that he takes the reader through the facts of the case, how the murderers were caught, and later into adulthood when he and his brother chose to testify at the parole hearing for one of the men (the other was executed). When I first finished the book, I wasn't sure I would rate it more than 3 stars as I found the writing repetitive, especially in the first two parts. But I actually finished this a few days ago, and I can't get some of the story out of my head. The way it was told sticks with me, so I find I have to rate it higher. The way the thread about the alligator candy, a small toy alligator that when squeezed releases small gum balls out of its mouth, is woven throughout the story is haunting.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    This memoir is about a journalist, now middle-aged, who goes back to investigate the murder of his brother. His brother, Jon, was abducted and killed as a child. The weird thing about this book, is that the author says he goes back to investigate the crime because he himself was 4 years old when the murder took place, and feels disconnected from his brother's murder since many of the details were spared him because he was so young at the time. So basically, the author does some very light researc This memoir is about a journalist, now middle-aged, who goes back to investigate the murder of his brother. His brother, Jon, was abducted and killed as a child. The weird thing about this book, is that the author says he goes back to investigate the crime because he himself was 4 years old when the murder took place, and feels disconnected from his brother's murder since many of the details were spared him because he was so young at the time. So basically, the author does some very light research, for instance, reading the newspaper stories that were published about the investigation, arrests and trial, and then he has some deeper understanding of what really happened. He doesn't uncover any new evidence or shine new light on the old rulings and crack the case wide open. So really, this is a book about a grown up learning the details of murder that he didn't know when he was younger. This could have been an article, I don't think it merited a whole book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    Alligator Candy is the story of Jonathan Kushner, an 11 year old Florida boy who was brutally murdered in Tampa, Florida in 1973. The author was four at the time of his brother's death and knew few details about what actually happened to his brother until many years later. This book is an attempt to come to terms with this horrible death through research, interviews, and reflection. I read many memoirs, a large number of them about death. (I don't normally read stories about murder, however, so Alligator Candy is the story of Jonathan Kushner, an 11 year old Florida boy who was brutally murdered in Tampa, Florida in 1973. The author was four at the time of his brother's death and knew few details about what actually happened to his brother until many years later. This book is an attempt to come to terms with this horrible death through research, interviews, and reflection. I read many memoirs, a large number of them about death. (I don't normally read stories about murder, however, so perhaps that's affected my rating!) Here, I found myself wishing that the author had spent less time repeating horrific details of the crime and more time digger deeper into the meaning of such crimes (beyond the well observed fact that Americans don't let their children run free any more). I do believe that writing the book served an important cathartic role for Kushner and perhaps it might for others who are trying to come to terms with tragedy in their lives.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Adrian Vega

    This novel is a true inspiration, and an amazing example of what a memoir should be. It all began when the author, David Kushner was four years old. Although young, David did illustrate the connection he contained with his older brother Jonathan. In a tragic turn of events, when Jonathan went out on his bike through the woods to get Alligator Candy for David, and a couple of treats for himself, he never came back. Being the missing child of a very famous Anthropologist, many aspects of their sma This novel is a true inspiration, and an amazing example of what a memoir should be. It all began when the author, David Kushner was four years old. Although young, David did illustrate the connection he contained with his older brother Jonathan. In a tragic turn of events, when Jonathan went out on his bike through the woods to get Alligator Candy for David, and a couple of treats for himself, he never came back. Being the missing child of a very famous Anthropologist, many aspects of their small town community joined together in a search party. Even with the communities great efforts to find the young Jonathan, he never came up. Later, a woman stated she had information on what had happened and the culprits were found. Growing up with all these issues, David went through dark times. All throughout these tragic times, the Kushner family grew stronger in an amazing example of love and triumph.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    It feels kind of mean to give a "not great" review of a memoir about the disappearance and murder of the author's brother, but this just isn't well done. The subject is undeniably riveting, but it's poorly spellchecked (distracting misused words/misspellings) and repetitive. I'm sure it was cathartic to write, but it should've resonated with me if it was going to with anyone who was unfamiliar with the story. My life was very similar to the author's: I grew up in Florida (the setting for the even It feels kind of mean to give a "not great" review of a memoir about the disappearance and murder of the author's brother, but this just isn't well done. The subject is undeniably riveting, but it's poorly spellchecked (distracting misused words/misspellings) and repetitive. I'm sure it was cathartic to write, but it should've resonated with me if it was going to with anyone who was unfamiliar with the story. My life was very similar to the author's: I grew up in Florida (the setting for the events), across the street from my house were undeveloped woods (same as this family's & where the abduction occurred), we had free rein -- not only of the woods but of as far as we could travel on our bikes -- and our parents never knew where we were and didn't care as long as we were home by dark. This boy had bad luck that could've easily been my bad luck. But instead of feeling a kinship, I felt as though the author was working very hard to make this "his."

  28. 5 out of 5

    SouthWestZippy

    In the suburbs of Florida the unthinkable happens, a young boy was murdered on his way home from the convenience store in 1973. Author David Kushner is the younger brother of Jon, the boy who was murdered. This heartbreaking story gives you the views of what happening in the mind of David, a then 4-year-old and what he found when he wanted answers and did some research. Not an easy read due to the subject. Writing is good but found it unengaging. It was like hearing a monotone voice while readin In the suburbs of Florida the unthinkable happens, a young boy was murdered on his way home from the convenience store in 1973. Author David Kushner is the younger brother of Jon, the boy who was murdered. This heartbreaking story gives you the views of what happening in the mind of David, a then 4-year-old and what he found when he wanted answers and did some research. Not an easy read due to the subject. Writing is good but found it unengaging. It was like hearing a monotone voice while reading. Nothing about what happened to the two men who killed Jon other than the fact they were caught a few other details. This could have been done because the Author wanted to focus on the people affected by the murder and not the murders, not sure of his motive. I would have liked to know more about what happened to them, would have given closer to the story.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    I'll never forget the abduction and murder of 11-year-old Jonathan Kushner, which filled the news in October 1973. Even though I didn't yet have children of my own, I felt his parents' pain intensely. When his father, University of South Florida professor Gilbert Kushner, appeared on television, it was heartbreaking. This book by David Kushner, who was just 4 when his brother rode his bike into the woods and never came back, revisits those dark days. David, a talented journalist, examines his me I'll never forget the abduction and murder of 11-year-old Jonathan Kushner, which filled the news in October 1973. Even though I didn't yet have children of my own, I felt his parents' pain intensely. When his father, University of South Florida professor Gilbert Kushner, appeared on television, it was heartbreaking. This book by David Kushner, who was just 4 when his brother rode his bike into the woods and never came back, revisits those dark days. David, a talented journalist, examines his memories in light of police reports and news coverage at the time. He tries to understand how this singular event shaped his life and how it and other child murders changed the way we parent. He also comes to an understanding of how his parents were able to survive such a horrific loss--through community, compassion and connection, he says.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ramona Mead

    This is an incredibly powerful memoir. Kushner tells his family's story, starting with the murder of his 11 year old brother in 1973, when he was only four. I like how he looks at his memories, along with his family's, along with the facts of the case, all from different angles as he tries to piece together what he actually remembers versus what he knows because he's been told. He also thoroughly looks at how the community helped his family through the tragedy, and explores how this is a common This is an incredibly powerful memoir. Kushner tells his family's story, starting with the murder of his 11 year old brother in 1973, when he was only four. I like how he looks at his memories, along with his family's, along with the facts of the case, all from different angles as he tries to piece together what he actually remembers versus what he knows because he's been told. He also thoroughly looks at how the community helped his family through the tragedy, and explores how this is a common factor in healing after loss. Part true crime, part family history, part personal journey, this book packs a serious emotional punch. It's graphic in parts, yet it's absolutely necessary. The writing is raw, Kushner is completely transparent as we witness his mission to discover the truth of his brother's death and struggle to parent his own children without fear.

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