Murder By Family: The Incredible True Story of a Son’s Treachery and a Father’s Forgiveness written by Kent Whitaker is not a book I would have normally chosen to read. In fact, the only reason I borrowed it from the library is because of it’s Dewey Decimal number 248.86 – because I’m part of a reading challenge on Goodreads called “Dewey Decimal Non Fiction Challenge“.
Murder By Family may be a short, quick read, but it packs a punch on your emotions. This story is a non fiction, true crime, written in the form of a memoir by the father of the Whitaker family, Kent.
Kent Whitaker feels that with the help of God he was able to forgive his own son,Bart, for murdering Bart’s mother and brother. Even though I’m not a religious person, I did enjoy this book. My eyes teared up at the thought that someone could possibly forgive someone for killing almost their entire family. I don’t know how Kent Whitaker managed to keep moving forward, and support his son Bart throughout his trial and conviction.
As a reader I quite enjoyed reading a story focused on the theme of family, and forgiveness. It caught my attention quickly, and I was looking forward to learning more about Bart, and find out what motivated him to want to kill his whole family. Sadly, I did not get to learn about that. We got to learn a bit about how Bart had fallen off the rails, but I would have loved to hear more about their child hood, and know about signs or red flags that made Tricia and Kent worry about Bart’s mental health.
I also had a hard time following the timeline, there was a lot of jumping around as Kent was writing this story. For example, he talks about the first Christmas after the murders, and the first New Year’s Eve, but then jumps back to mid-December.
There were also a few instances when I felt like Kent was enjoying the attention he was receiving after the murders, and I had a hard time relating to someone who could go out to a concert just a few months after his wife and son have been killed and have a good time watching a band. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure I’d have a much harder time living a normal life for a hell of a long time after something like that. Perhaps it was his forgiveness that helped him move on so quickly.
The story was also extremely focused on Bart, and Kent supporting Bart even after he was charged and it was blatantly obvious that he had been the mastermind behind the murders. It felt almost, like there was no emotion, or heart-breaking sadness over losing his wife and youngest son – or at least, it wasn’t written about much in this book.
Bart, AKA Thomas Bartlett Whitaker, has been on death row since March 23rd, 2007. While doing a little research about this book, and the Whitaker family, I stumbled across a blog, which has posts written by Bart Whitaker. I found his posts more interesting than his father’s book, and reading his words are giving me some insight as to what he was thinking and feeling.
In summary, I’m currently still debating whether I will rate Murder By Family two or three stars on Goodreads. It’s probably a two-and-a-half, not for the actual writing, but for the story, and the inspirational message Kent Whitaker shares about forgiveness. I recommend this one to anyone interested in true crime, or who would like to be able to learn more about how forgiveness, and to anyone interested in religion.