After the Murder of My Son
Mary Rondeau Westra
North Star Press of St. Cloud (2010)
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views (11/10)
No parent should ever lose a child to death regardless of the circumstances, but for Mary and Mark Westra their child should have never been kicked to death. How do you handle the news that your child has died when you just saw him a few days before? How do you get the real information of what happened and what do you do when the justice system lets you down?
The Westra’s were a wonderful, close knit family who enjoyed doing things together. The parents were always loving and understanding of their children. Their son Peter was a successful investment banker in New York; he was handsome, fun and loved life. After he attended his grandmother’s 90th birthday celebration, he flew to Atlantic City to meet college buddies for a bachelor party. Even though the place chosen to party wasn’t something Peter or his friends normally did, they were having fun and not bothering anyone. And as Mary says “does it really matter where the party was or if the young men were drinking?” What really is important is what happened when Peter and a bouncer got into a conflict and Peter ended up being stomped to death and left in the gutter.
Even though the actual events were hard to come by, the bouncers went to trial. Trials in themselves are torture in that you have to recount in detail what others think happened. How do you sit there and listen to the inhumane events? The Westra family was still grieving and had a hard time trying to understand how someone could so callously take the life of another human being. Even though the system is in place to take care of the victim, sometimes it fails and those who are perpetrators get off with little or no prison time.
“After the Murder of My Son” is a wonderful memoir about the process of grief, shock and finally some healing. It is told with great passion, honesty and emotion. You can feel the family’s pain, and how they eventually began to help others who have had the same thing happen to their child. Mary takes her grief and healing and puts it to a good use to remember her son and others. Readers will be stunned at what happens in the criminal justice system and question everything that was done in the trial and leading up to the trial.