Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft

This really tense read made me so emotional, although I'm not sure if I reacted the way I intended to. It's conflicting, to say the least.

You see, The Far End of Happy is about a suicide standoff. On the day that her Ronnie's husband, Jeff, is supposed to move out, he turns a gun on himself and threatens suicide. Over the course of one day, Ronnie, her mother Beverly, and Jeff's mother Janet, are there, waiting for something to happen. Of course, in a standoff, there's really not much to do but wait, and we see, from the three women's perspective, not just what's going on, but what happened in the past, leading up to this.

And for me, any time an author brings in multiple POVs of the same issue, most of the time the aim is to show you how complex the issue is. I think this is supposed to be a story about how even the match made in heaven can slowly disintegrate when there is no honesty/when certain problems (not allowed to say because spoilers) appear.

But my reaction was mainly "wow, Jeff is definitely the one at fault. And his mom too. Janet needs to wake up and realise how lucky she is that Beverly and Ronnie still love her." Seriously. No matter who was speaking, Jeff just came across as unlikable, manipulative and selfish. Did I mention manipulative? It may because I have this weekly class that's about employment, but is really a "this is how gender inequality still exists in the workplace", but Jeff's attitude and actions towards Ronnie's attempts to use her journalism degree (something she likes) for something just screamed "STAY AWAY". Making her give up her dream? check. Making her take his dream? check. Putting down her attempts to write? check.


And Janet wasn't better. She spends most of the book complaining about Ronnie and how she's the one responsible for pushing her precious boy to the edge. And the more I found out about Jeff, the less sympathy I had for her.

Oh, and am I the only one that finds the 12 year age gap disquieting? I mean, Ronnie and Jeff are supposedly the perfect couple and all that, but pairing them as childhood sweethearts with such a large gap just makes me go ew. And it's hard for me not to assume that everyone was rooting for them since the start, especially when there are passages like these (don't worry, this doesn't contain a spoiler. Oh, and I took out all the "she said" stuff and interruptions, so it's just the story):

"Back when he was eighteen, your father came home to tell us about his first year at college. Your mom was only six and had beautiful ringlet curls... Little Ronnie's skirt was stiff with petticoats and she had on white anklet socks and patent leather shoes... and she crawled up on your daddy's lap and turned his face towards hers as if no one else was in teh room, because she adored him. And she loved him so much she had you two boys..."

I'm sorry, but this sounds like Ronnie was a child bride, even though she is not. Stuff like this makes it very hard for me to even start to understand Jeff and his mother, much less feel sympathy for either of them.

Assuming this isn't one of those "there are no right or wrong, just two points of view" sort of books, then this is a really well-written book about how monsters can gradually appear, and how standing up yourself means standing up for yourself, not compromising in order to "save" someone who can't be saved.

If I was rating this by stars: I'd give this a four, because it's excellent and made me feel so much. I'm obviously not a fan of Jeff or Janet, but this book did keep me in its grip, and I was very much satisfied by the ending.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

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