Carrie Carolyn Coco

My Friend, Her Murder, and an Obsession with the Unthinkable

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Pub Date 09 Jul 2024 | Archive Date 16 Jul 2024

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Acclaimed author Sarah Gerard turns her keen observational eye and penetrating prose to the 2016 murder of her friend Carolyn Bush, examining the multi-faceted reasons for her death―personal and societal, avoidable and inevitable―as “nuanced and subtly intimate” (NPR) as her lauded essay collection Sunshine State.

On the night of September 28, 2016, twenty-five-year-old Carolyn Bush was brutally stabbed to death in her New York City apartment by her roommate Render Stetson-Shanahan, leaving friends and family of both reeling. In life, Carolyn was a gregarious, smart-mouthed aspiring poet, who had seemingly gotten along well with Render, a reserved art handler. Where had it gone so terribly wrong?

This is the question that has plagued acclaimed author Sarah Gerard and driven her obsessive pursuit to understand this horrific tragedy. In Sarah’s exploration of Carolyn’s life and death, she spent thousands of hours interviewing Carolyn and Render’s friends and family, poring over court documents and news media, reading obscure writings and internet posts, and attending Carolyn’s memorials and Render’s trial.

What emerged from Sarah’s relentless instinct to follow a story and its characters to their darkest ends is a book that is at once a striking homage to Carolyn’s life, a chilling excavation of a brutal crime, and a captivating whydunit with a shocking conclusion.

Acclaimed author Sarah Gerard turns her keen observational eye and penetrating prose to the 2016 murder of her friend Carolyn Bush, examining the multi-faceted reasons for her death―personal and...

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ISBN 9781638930464
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Featured Reviews

True crime writing at its best a heartbreaking book about the murder of the authors dear friend.The authors investigation kept me turning the pages and the path her investigation took was fascinating shocking..#netgalley #zandobooks

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well written and very sad true crime tale written by someone who was close with the victim. .... thank you for the arc.

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I have never heard of this case before so it was definitely an interesting read to learn more about Carolyn but also to delve deep into the case with the research that Sarah has done and their relationship adds another layer to this.

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The book covers the 2016 murder of Carolyn Bush, 25, who was stabbed to death by her roommate Render Stetson-Shanahan in their NYC apartment. The author, who was a friend of Carolyn’s, seeks to determine what led to her death and goes through court transcripts, media sources and countless interviews to attempt an answer. She was warned against this project, “a book about her will flatten her for easy consumption, turn her into easy entertainment, glamorize murder,” but while the author admits many motivations for the book, “a thirst for justice? Fear for my own safety in a sexist culture? Grief…? Entertainment, fame, or money? Fascination and curiosity with death? A desperate desire to know why?” She believes at base she really just wants to fully know Carolyn.

Both Carolyn and Render were once students at Bard College, and that is one weird place. Carolyn flunked out. The President of the school wrote a letter to the court on Render’s behalf, as did a number of other Bard administrators and faculty (Render’s mother was with the Office of Admissions) and, in addition, the President comes across as one of the biggest skeeves on the planet. Ick. The Bard student body is nearly as bad. “They’re living like squatters, not putting the heat on, talking about literature like they understand it when they don’t, and then they have this super-fancy bottle of whiskey? This is rich kid shit.” That pretty much sums up the Bard ethos right there. Rich, pretentious, entitled kids, slumming.

To be honest, Carolyn falls right into this as well….she’s not at all easy to like. A friend describes her thusly, “I feel like she has kind of this reincarnation of Mina Loy. She definitely wanted to be. The kind of ‘swathed in fur, holding court in a smoky parlor talking about the firmament and the fixture of the stars?’ That’s the world she wanted to inhabit.” I just can’t with these people.

Yet despite all this, and the cast of thousands that got a bit confusing at times I quite enjoyed the book. Don’t let the author fool you, this is true crime, no matter how one might try to dress it up, but add in a fairly novel legal defense, an interesting victim and the fairly loathsome nature of Bard and, especially, its President (who is connected with Jeffrey Epstein for the love of all things holy) and it is entertaining true crime. And, in line with what the author wanted, we do get to know Carolyn. So there’s that. Recommended.

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