Flowers Are Better Than Bullets By Rod Dillman Kindle Edition 364 pages 2023
This book was written, and apparently self-published, by a former resident of Suffield. It is a debut novel and a book of great emotional strength. Its power derives from the author’s passion for telling his story, which one suspects is grounded in personal experience. It is essentially the story of what happened at Kent State University during the Vietnam War, the shooting of several students who were engaged in a protest against the war, killing four and maiming nine others. If Rod Dillman was not a student at Kent State during this period, then he deserves all the more credit for portraying it so convincingly.
The book’s main character and narrator, through whose observations the main plot and subplots are revealed, grows and develops from the first to the final chapter. At the beginning of the narration he is a pre-teen, suffering from abuse both physical and emotional at the hands of his brutal father. By the end of the book he is back at Kent State, with what we suspect is a fine future which he has successfully carved out of misery. Along the way he has many experiences and exploits, particularly sessions of youthful sexual exploration which leave nothing to the imagination. Clearly these are meant to establish background and to serve as a contrast to the scenes of violence which occur less frequently and with great validity.
Along with its strengths, the book has somewhat stiff dialogue, and multiple relating events in the main character’s life which seem unnecessary to the plot These tendencies are not at all unusual in a debut novel, As the main character says, the students at Kent State who observed what happened there have been scarred by the experience, even if not directly injured. The reader can feel the scars.