The book strains, at times, to extrapolate broader lessons from what happened. It needn’t; the study of a family in extremis is enough. 'I long for this kid, my Jon, part of me,' Kushner’s mother writes in her journal, six months after the murder. One of the questions raised by the author is, How does one survive the worst thing? The only answer is this: A mother writing to her son, years after his death, 'Do you still know that you are loved?'
Alligator Candy is a raw story about courage, survival and most certainly about love. It's also about defeating the demons of our memory. And thus it is only fitting that when his daughter was old enough to get her own bike, David Kushner taught her to ride on the same street where he last saw his brother. And for good reason.
[The] dual perspective creates the fulcrum for Alligator Candy, which is less a crime story than meditation on the shattering of middle-class innocence and the elusive comforts of memory ... weaves an excruciating wistfulness into his book, an awareness of himself as part of “the last free generation of kids” who, as adults, let fear quash their own children’s freedom. That realization — the divide between those who glide through the world believing it is a basically benign place, and those who step more warily, knowing that it is not — forms the bedrock of Alligator Candy ... Not a particularly stylish writer, Kushner is sometimes prone to cliche...But Kushner also understands the importance of writing with restraint when the action is anything but. In the deft power of a half-sentence, he describes his otherwise distant, unemotive father curled up on the floor of his dead son’s closet.