Title: The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: A
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Ronnie’s husband is supposed to move out today. But when Jeff pulls into the driveway drunk, with a shotgun in the front seat, she realizes nothing about the day will go as planned.
The next few hours spiral down in a flash, unlike the slow disintegration of their marriage-and whatever part of that painful unraveling is Ronnie’s fault, not much else matters now but these moments. Her family’s lives depend on the choices she will make-but is what’s best for her best for everyone?
Based on a real event from the author’s life, The Far End of Happy is a chilling story of one troubled man, the family that loves him, and the suicide standoff that will change all of them forever.
Powerful. Intense. Emotional. Gut wrenching. While all of these adjectives fit The Far End of Happy, I believe that “heartbreaking” is probably the one that comes closest to describing this riveting novel. Incredibly moving and achingly poignant, the story is a fictionalized account that is based on actual events from Kathryn Craft’s life. This haunting tale provides readers with an unforgettable look into her failed marriage and the tragic circumstances that culminate with her first husband’s dramatic stand-off with police.
Veronica “Ronnie” Farnham’s marriage is over and the day has finally arrived that her husband Jeff is supposed to move out. From the moment she awakens, she realizes something is not quite right, but it not until she, along with their two sons, Will and Andrew, spy Jeff in his car that they realize how terribly wrong things are that morning. It is apparent that Jeff is drunk and at first, their main concern is to keep him from driving away. But to Ronnie’s horror, she notices a shotgun in the front seat of the car and she knows that everyone’s lives are in terrible danger. Soon, their quiet farm is surrounded by police and the media while she and her children are whisked away to safety. Meanwhile, Jeff barricades himself in their farm store with the shotgun and over the next several hours, police try to negotiate with him to peacefully surrender.
As Ronnie, her mother Beverly and her mother-in-law Janet anxiously wait for news, the women cannot fathom how they ended up at this point in their lives. Each of them reflects on the past as they try to pinpoint the moment things began to go wrong. Through each woman’s perspective, a picture begins to emerge of a deeply troubled man who turns to alcohol to cope with his problems.
Ronnie slowly surrendered her dreams after her marriage to Jeff. At first an eager participant as they renovate their dilapidated home, in recent years, she has grown tired of the endless projects. Her weariness is compounded as Jeff slowly checks out of their life, leaving her with the responsibility of raising their sons while balancing running their farm store with her freelance writing projects. As Ronnie comes to the realization their marriage is beyond saving, she must then cope with Jeff’s increasing despondency. When Jeff threatens suicide, she is forced to make one of the hardest decisions of her life as she tries to get him the treatment he so desperately needs. But as she quickly discovers, Ronnie cannot force him to get the treatment he needs and she moves forward with her plans to divorce him.
Janet is completely blind to her son’s faults and at first, she is convinced that Ronnie is to blame for Jeff’s problems. He has carefully spun events so that it appears all of his decisions have been to make Ronnie happy. But as the hours pass and tempers flare, Janet is forced to face the fact that Jeff is not blameless in the demise of his marriage and that her efforts to help him only enabled him to continue on his destructive path.
Beverly’s main concern is for her daughter and grandsons, but she too revisits painful events from her past. She objectively reflects on the defining event that led to poor decisions and a lifelong search for happiness. Her long held secrets are finally revealed and true healing finally begins for both her and Ronnie.
The suspense builds as the hours stretch into the early evening and The Far End of Happy quickly hurdles to its inevitable conclusion. Although it is impossible to avoid shedding a few tears as the story comes to a close, Kathryn Craft does a spectacular job of ending the novel on a hopeful note as Ronnie and her family begin the arduous task of healing from the day’s traumatic events.