Mark Oppenheimer’s Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood (Knopf), focuses not on the killer, but on the reactions of Pittsburghers in general, and especially the responses of Squirrel Hill residents. That is why it is likely to become the definitive study of the horrific massacre that attracted global attention.
Oppenheimer, the director of the Yale Journalism Initiative and a former religion columnist for The New York Times, is uniquely qualified to describe the shooting and its aftermath. His great-great-great grandfather settled in Pittsburgh in the 1840s, and the author’s father was born in the city.
In the course of his research, Oppenheimer made 32 trips to Pittsburgh from his home in Connecticut. He writes: “The question that I started coming to Pittsburgh with,” he writes, “was how does the fact of Squirrel Hill, with its close-knit neighborhood—close-knit both geographically, but also emotionally and spiritually—affect people’s recovery in the aftermath of a mass tragedy?”