Friday, September 4, 2015

Book Review: The Far End of Happy

By Gail Allison

You know those stories that draw you in and make you feel like you’re a part of the action, just sitting in a chair and watching everything happen as it unfolds? This one of those. And you know those weird dramas like 24 where everything happens in real-time and you’re like “whoa. This all just happened in the amount of time that ACTUALLY passed” when it’s over? This is also one of those. It’s not easy to read, and it’s not comfortable to sit through, but The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft is an amazingly well-told tale that, once you realize it’s loosely based on something the author actually lived through, will haunt you well after you’ve put it down.

Ronnie has been through a lot, and is finally starting to find her own feet. Today is the day that Jeff, her husband, should be moving out. He’s been fighting the divorce that Ronnie has been pushing for, and she has finally called it off. No more marriage. Unfortunately, when Ronnie gets up to start the day and get her sons off to school, something is a little off. The kitchen isn’t quite the way she left it. The guest room where Jeff has been sleeping is completely made up and devoid of life. When Ronnie and her sons realize that Jeff has pulled up to the house drunk, all hell starts to slowly break loose. Trying to maintain the facade of normalcy, Ronnie sends the boys to brush their teeth, calls the police when she realizes there’s a shotgun in the vehicle, and calls her mother to come and get the kids.

Told from the staggered viewpoints (but entirely in third-person, so there’s never any question of who the narrator is) of Ronnie, Ronnie’s mother Beverly, and Jeff’s mother Janet, you learn slowly who this person is who would endanger his kids, and why he feels that a suicide standoff with police is his only option at this point. Ronnie just wants to keep her kids safe, Beverly just wants Ronnie to be happy, and can’t understand quite what that would take at this point, and Janet want to see Jeff stop suffering, but doesn’t know how to help at this point. This story is a work of fiction, but it’s based on real-life events in the author’s life, and the story unfolds over the course of 12 hours. It’s tense, it’s engrossing, and it will make you think twice before you start insisting that you know what’s best for someone. It’s a stunning picture of the overlapping layers that make up a life story, and how two lives that seem so close can actually be miles apart.

This book is emotionally exhausting to read (seriously, have some Sophie Kinsella on standby), but it’s so worth it to immerse yourself in this story of how someone can slowly slip down the slope of depression. It’s so well written that you will find yourself empathizing with each and every one of the characters, and by the end you will put it down feeling completely drained, but agreeing that mental illness is not something to be taken lightly, and realizing a new-found respect for the people who are affected by it every day. The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft is gripping, tense, and will keep you glued to the pages until it’s over.

Thanks to Sourcebooks for the book in exchange for an honest review.


Janine said...

Great review

Liz Parker said...

I reviewed this as well a few months ago and really liked the book.