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

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Read-Alikes |  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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start discovering exceptional books!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Hello Beautiful
    Hello Beautiful
    by Ann Napolitano
    Ann Napolitano's much-anticipated Hello Beautiful pulls the reader into a warm, loving familial ...
  • Book Jacket: The West
    The West
    by Naoíse Mac Sweeney
    It's become common for history books and courses to reconsider the emphasis on "Western Civilization...
  • Book Jacket
    A Death in Denmark
    by Amulya Malladi
    Can a mystery novel be informative, intriguing and deeply comforting all at once? Amulya Malladi ...
  • Book Jacket
    Shrines of Gaiety
    by Kate Atkinson
    A few years ago, magazines ran pieces about how the 2020s were likely to be the 1920s all over again...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The First Conspiracy
by Brad Meltzer & Josh Mensch
A remarkable and previously untold piece of American history—the secret plot to kill George Washington

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Paper Names
    by Susie Luo

    A propulsive and sweeping story of family, identity and the American experience—for fans of Jean Kwok and Mary Beth Keane.

  • Book Jacket

    Pieces of Blue
    by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    A hilarious and heartfelt novel for fans of Maria Semple and Emma Straub.

Win This Book
Win Such Kindness

30 Copies to Give Away!

Few writers paint three-dimensional characters with such verve and humanism.
Booklist (starred review)



Solve this clue:

S I F A R Day

and be entered to win..

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.