A semiautobiographical novel about one woman’s long struggle with her divorce and her growing children.
Hart’s debut begins with the protagonist, Kelli (also the author’s first name), arguing with her husband, Guthrie. Guthrie and Kelli have been married almost 22 years and together have six children. They live in a rural place where the scenery is dotted with horses, trucks, and plenty of disagreements. As Kelli develops a serious joint illness, her marriage deteriorates ever further. When the divorce papers are finally filed, it is merely the beginning of a long war waged in and out of court. The reader follows along over the course of the next 10-plus years as Kelli battles for the custody of her children and, as they grow into adults, simply for their love and trust. Kelli faces challenges ranging from mounting legal debts to finding a God-fearing man to be her next husband. She endures a stint in jail. All of those pale, however, in comparison to the occasional searing comments from her children such as, “This divorce is all your fault!” Nevertheless, Kelli holds on to her Christian beliefs and does her best to maintain hope in a story that progresses slowly. Readers get a wealth of information, not all of it necessary, from teachers’ reports to discussions about who is going to visit whom and when. At one point, the book describes a mundane conversation Kelli has with a daughter about her son Aaron: “You told Aaron that you would come here for Easter. Aaron says you’ve changed your mind. Is this true?” Although some of the finer points get lost in the shuffle of this long period of turmoil, events are painted realistically. Anyone who’s experienced a messy divorce can likely relate to the whirlwind of attorneys, social workers, hurt feelings, and supervised visits the book describes. The dialogue can be blunt—a son tells Kelli, “I’m glad you discipline us”—but when tragedy strikes the family, it is vivid. And it is the vividness that keeps the story alive until the very end.
A heartfelt—if at times slow-moving and overlong—picture of a family’s distress.