Picks and Pans Review: Facing the Wind

updated 05/07/2001 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/07/2001 01:00AM

A True Story of Tragedy and Reconciliation
By Julie Salamon

On the morning of Feb. 22, 1978, a Brooklyn lawyer and devoted family man named Bob Rowe took a baseball bat and killed his three children. Afterward he calmly called his wife, Mary, at work, and urged her to come home early. When Mary arrived, excited and curious, her husband of almost 25 years told her to close her eyes because the children had a surprise. Then he bludgeoned her to death too.

Got your attention? Facing the Wind will keep it, but this grim, gripping story is far more than just a sensational murder case. Salamon, author of the bestselling Hollywood exposé The Devil's Candy, finds deep complexity in Rowe's life both before and after that awful day. Declared not guilty by reason of insanity, Rowe, by all accounts a charming, kind man with no previous history of violence, ended up serving just 2½ years in a psychiatric facility. Salamon uses that turn of events to explore the nature of sanity, responsibility and redemption. Did the pressures of caring for the Rowes' middle child, a blind and severely brain-damaged boy, cause Bob to snap? Could anyone have foreseen the tragedy and stopped him? Is it fair that a man can rebuild his life—Rowe ultimately remarried, had another child and died of cancer in 1997—after so viciously violating the social contract? What are the limits of forgiveness?

Salamon, who spent years interviewing the Rowes' fellow members of a group of parents of blind children, also offers a rare, fascinating look at the daily lives of the men and women least inclined to forgive Bob Rowe—parents raising handicapped children.(Random House, $24.95)

Bottom Line: Thought-provoking tale of crime and punishment

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