Synopses & Reviews
A riveting account of the state of Arizona, seen through the lens of the Tucson shootings
On January 8, 2011, twenty-two-year-old Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a Tucson meet-and-greet held by U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. The incident left six people dead and eighteen injured, including Giffords, whom he shot in the head.
Award-winning author and fifth generation Arizonan Tom Zoellner, a longtime friend of Giffords's and a field organizer on her Congressional campaign, uses the tragedy as a jumping-off point to expose the fault lines in Arizona's political and socioeconomic landscape that allowed this to happen: the harmful political rhetoric, the inept state government, the lingering effects of the housing market's boom and bust, the proliferation and accessibility of guns, the lack of established communities, and the hysteria surrounding issues of race and immigration. Zoellner's account includes interviews with those directly involved and effected, including Arizona's controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Zoellner offers a revealing portrait of the Southwestern state at a critical moment in history- and as a symbol of the nation's discontents and uncertainties. Ultimately, it is his rallying cry for a saner, more civil way of life
"Writer and fifth-generation Arizonan Zoellner (Uranium) seeks 'to make sense of a fundamentally baffling event' in this rambling examination of the January 8, 2011, shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Jared Lee Loughner 22 years old, unemployed, and 'obviously deranged' killed six people and wounded 13, including Giffords, when he opened fire at a political meet and greet at a Tucson Safeway. Concluding that events 'never happen in a vacuum,' the author searches for clues to the tragedy in the context in which the shooting took place. He finds his answers in the dysfunctional social and political culture of Arizona its isolation, misplaced paranoia about immigration, gun laws, the 'withering' of its mental health care system, absent leadership, and the partisan nastiness of politics and talk radio. Even while conceding that there is only one responsible party for the tragedy and that he is 'gravely mentally ill,' Zoellner concludes that 'Loughner's feelings of existential helplessness were a distorted amplification of what surrounded him that year in Arizona.' Zoellner, a personal friend of Giffords, admits that this is 'not a work of objective journalism,' and his subjective rendering of Arizona proves problematic, as is his effort to connect the dots between cause and effect." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Tom Zoellner's remarkable book about a moment of tragedy in Arizona ends up a story of survival--a wounded Congresswoman's survival, and a wounded nation's survival as well." -Richard Rodriguez, author of Brown: The Last Discovery of America
"Zoellner brilliantly evokes the past and present of Arizona, the outsized personalities that have shaped the state and the paranoia lurking at the edge of society. A sure-to-be-controversial, troubling tale of the wages of fear on the body politic." -Kirkus Reviews
"Compelling as his probing of the Giffords shooting is, Zoellner's greatest service here is illuminating the darkest corners of this sun- drenched seedbed of rugged individualism."
"A Safeway in Arizona is a masterly work of reporting, historical analysis, and sly cultural criticism."
"A Safeway in Arizona, is Zoellner's quirky, uneven, brave and astonishingly heartfelt attempt to make sense of the Saturday-morning massacre"
-San Francisco Chronicle
"Overall, A Safeway in Arizona's exploration of its issues is appealingly candid and thought-provoking. What could be a long slog of dry background information is skillfully structured to read as a fresh account of crucial events that made a lasting impression on the teller. Zoellner's perspective on this state and what we've made of it, as well as Giffords' enviable relationship with most of her constituents, constitute a gripping story that presents a side of the whole mess you're not likely to find elsewhere."
-Phoenix New Times
"Tom Zoellner's remarkable book about a moment of tragedy in Arizona ends up a story of survival--a wounded Congresswoman's survival, and a wounded nation's survival as well."
-Richard Rodriguez, author of Brown: The Last Discovery of America
"Zoellner brilliantly evokes the past and present of Arizona, the outsized personalities that have shaped the state and the paranoia lurking at the edge of society."
"Fascinating...get[s] to the heart of what is unique about Arizona's political climate."
“A Safeway in Arizona, is Zoellner's quirky, uneven, brave and astonishingly heartfelt attempt to make sense of the Saturday-morning massacre…he carefully and convincingly treads new ground and concludes that “events-especially violent ones-never happen in a vacuum.”…it’s [Zoellner’s] love for both Giffords and Arizona that makes A Safeway in Arizona so compelling a read.” San Francisco Chronicle
“[A] book that embraces an almost thriller-style narrative structure…A Safeway in Arizona is a masterly work of reporting, historical analysis, and sly cultural criticism.” The Boston Globe
“[A] nuanced book that [Zoellner] is unusually (probably uniquely) qualified to write…Readers outside Arizona should find plenty to admire in this book—including Zoellner’s deep investigation into Loughner’s life; the narrative of the author’s friendship with Giffords; the thoughtful treatment of gun control as an explosive socioeconomic-political issue fueled by demagogues across the desert terrain; and the explication of how the builders of Tucson and other Arizona locales seem to have failed miserably in making community possible, thus creating a breeding ground for structural dysfunction.” The Houston Chronicle
“No one has probed the terrain around the Tucson shooting better than author and journalist Tom Zoellner…Zoellner set out to transcend the endless political banter over blame and explores the social contexts underscoring how Giffords’ act of democratic participation–”reaching out to strangers at the fringe of a Safeway”–could lead to one of the most disturbing assassination attempts in recent history. In the process, Zoellner asks a lot of questions most Arizonans would prefer to ignore.” Salon.com
“There’s a gaping gulf between the shooting itself and the glib remembrances that make it into the news. Tom Zoellner’s new book about the shooting, A Safeway in Arizona, almost fixes this.” Slate.com
About the Author
Tom Zoellner is the author of Uranium:War, Energy, and the Rock That Shaped the World, winner of the 2010 American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award, The Heartless Stone: A Journey Through the World of Diamonds, Deceit and Desire, and co-author of An Ordinary Man. He has worked as a reporter for The Arizona Republic and San Francisco Chronicle.