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The Untouched Minutes

Donald Morrill

Publication Year: 2004

What would you be willing to do to save someone, perhaps someone you loved? On a moment’s notice, for instance, would you lunge between that person and an assailant’s knife strike? In that same situation, what would you be willing do for yourself? And what if there were nothing, ultimately, to be done?

These and other such questions live in the untouched minutes—questions most of us are, fortunately, never compelled to answer, though the media exposes us daily to the stories of those who are. In February 2001, on what started out as a typical Sunday afternoon, Donald Morrill and his wife Lisa Birnbaum became the victims of a home invasion and found themselves faced with the specter of ultimate contingency. In The Untouched Minutes, Morrill recounts and examines the events of that day and its aftermath as well as the circumstances surrounding the murders of Dartmouth professors Half and Suzanne Zantop, which occurred the same week.

Set against the unfolding drama of post-9/11 America, The Untouched Minutes explores how violence and the threat of violence color and recast one’s assumptions and can plot the course of people facing the unknown, the unknowable, the irredeemable. Morrill presents a memorable portrait of what it means to take back the life that, finally, wasn’t taken, and in the process he offers a powerful meditation on terror and security, home and travel, art, race, luck, and our individual places in the wider world.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Series: River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize


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Title Page, Copyright

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Page 1

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pp. 1-39

Those minutes had beggared Don, and so he needed to understand what that begging had been for. His life was part of it — most vividly and elusively the life he had been allowed since that afternoon. But as an answer, it was clearly insufficient. ...

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Page 40

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pp. 40-80

Again, Gregory had them move past him, back down the hall toward the bedroom. Lisa was between the men. Horrified by the proximity to Gregory, she scurried ahead of Don, clutching Don’s wadded shirt to her chest. ...

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Page 81

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pp. 81-100

Jack’s friend had been a math teacher before joining the service. Like Jack, he was third-generation infantry. He was thirty years old. Already the facts of his life and death, such as Jack is aware of them, are fanning out and intermingling with the facts of Jack’s own life, taking on multiple identities, shifting allegiances to the knowable. ...


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pp. 101-102

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pp. 103-104

Thanks to Kathleen and Mike Ochshorn for providing haven in the midst of acute suddenness; to Mary Jane Schenck, whose timely aid helped in the mending of a ruined house; to the Dana Foundation for a summer grant that gave me the opportunity to concentrate on the writing. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780803204287
E-ISBN-10: 0803204280

Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize
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OCLC Number: 54669617
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Untouched Minutes

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Subject Headings

  • Morrill, Donald, 1955-.
  • Victims of crimes -- Florida -- Tampa.
  • Authors, American -- 20th century -- Biography.
  • English teachers -- United States -- Biography.
  • Tampa (Fla.) -- Social conditions.
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