Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Today I am grateful that Kathryn Craft has a story to tell. . .and she is a fantastic writer. Good combination! Her latest novel, “The Far End of Happy” should be a film. . .and I’ll bet money it will be!
I always tremble a little when I begin a book by a new author and Kathryn was no exception. Will she leave me flat, lumbering over page after page to just get through it until I want to stick a fork in my eye and put it back on the shelf? Or will she give me the gift of being swept along in an interesting story? Will she present me with unbelievable people, who I wouldn’t care about and cannot imagine knowing? Or will she develop characters I feel strongly about, either loving them; being angry with them; or finding them so interesting that I’m already head-casting the actors for the movie? Will she grab me fast and make me want to forget about everything else I have to do, forcing me to turn the page when I don’t have time to read more? She will.
In “The Far End of Happy”, Kathryn Craft does all of those things and more. She quickly gives me the, who, what, where, when and why of the story. I find that chilling since the novel is based on a real event from her own life. As a writer myself, I know how risky that can be. The line between fact and fiction has to blur or it isn’t a novel, it’s a memoir. But where do you end? Where does your character begin? Not only you, but what about all of the other players in your drama? Families have fallen apart from less exposure. How do you balance the facts and still remain true to the story?
She knows how. Because some stories need to be told. This is one of them. Kathryn braves the topics of alcoholism, violence, mental illness, weapon hoarding, suicide, and family dynamics laced with secrets. But there is hope, too, all packed in one novel. The time-of-day chapters add a ticking-clock feeling into the story that smacks of urgency and gets the heart pumping harder with each chapter. She offers just enough backstory on the key players to keep you turning like pages like it was a flip-book.
Sometimes when I am reading I feel so connected to a line that I dog ear the corner, wishing I had written it. My copy of Kathryn’s book looks like a puppy kennel. One of my favorite lines is, “. . .it was hard for Ronnie to look him in the eye, with their chaos splashed all over him.” That, my friends, is great writing. It tells me everything I need to know in one small sentence. And there are a million of them.
Don’t miss reading this book. Order it for your entire book club. Order it for Christmas. And when everyone you know has read it, then sit down with someone you love and have that hard conversation. You’ll know which one.