Announcing Our Best Books of 2021

Survivor's Guilt: Background information when reading How to Be Safe

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

How to Be Safe

by Tom McAllister

How to Be Safe by Tom McAllister X
How to Be Safe by Tom McAllister
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Published:
    Apr 2018, 240 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
Buy This Book

About this Book

Survivor's Guilt

This article relates to How to Be Safe

Print Review

In How To Be Safe, Tom McAllister charts a year in the life of his main character Anna and the rest of the community of Seldom Falls, in the aftermath of a mass school shooting carried out by a student. Anna, a teacher who was fired from the school, struggles to cope with many aspects of the tragedy, not least her feelings of guilt that she was not there when it happened.

The concept of survivor guilt was first identified among holocaust survivors, individuals who had lost family and friends in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. It is recognized as afflicting people who survive traumatic events – wars and conflicts, natural disasters, terrorist attacks and school shootings, but can also be experienced by others such as first responders, transplant recipients, and people who have lost a loved one.

Regardless of the source of the feelings, Psychology Today identifies three themes or types of guilt that sufferers may experience:

  1. Guilt about surviving: the feeling that you do not deserve to have survived when others have not. Survivors often feel that happiness is inappropriate and wrong. They feel that the world is unfair.
  2. Guilt about not doing enough: survivors may feel guilty that they did not do more to help others, or that when the opportunity to be brave and save another person arose, they did not take it.
  3. Guilt about actions: in moments of extreme stress, people do not always live up to their own ideas of themselves, perhaps pushing others out of the way so that they can survive. This theme also affects people who have left poverty – refugees for example – who feel guilty about others left behind.

The Sun Sentinel reported that students of Stoneman Douglas High School who were not, for one reason or other, at school on February 14, 2018, are experiencing survivor's guilt. The article estimates that on any given day, only 94% of the school's population is in attendance due to illness or other absences. Like Anna in How To Be Safe, there were people who were not at Stoneman Douglas, but could and normally would have been. These students have to balance the disconnect of being both part and not part of the event. They may also find they have less access to support than those who were present and yet may still be suffering significant trauma.

Filed under Medicine, Science and Tech

Article by Kate Braithwaite

This article relates to How to Be Safe. It first ran in the May 2, 2018 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket
    People from My Neighborhood
    by Hiromi Kawakami
    People from My Neighborhood is exactly what it sounds like — an unnamed narrator recounts a ...
  • Book Jacket
    Win Me Something
    by Kyle Lucia Wu
    Kyle Lucia Wu's Win Me Something opens with a young woman named Willa explaining that she did not ...
  • Book Jacket: The Island of Missing Trees
    The Island of Missing Trees
    by Elif Shafak
    The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak tells a tale of generational trauma, explores identity ...
  • Book Jacket: The Correspondents
    The Correspondents
    by Judith Mackrell
    In the introduction to The Correspondents, author Judith Mackrell points out that although there had...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    True Crime Story
    by Joseph Knox

    The #1 international bestselling novel. What happens to all the girls who go missing?

Who Said...

The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!


Solve this clue:

I Y Can't S T H, G O O T K

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.