The Far End of Happy is fiction that draws heavily on a real event from author Kathryn Craft’s life. The novel’s main protagonist, Veronica (Ronnie) Farnham, is trying to leave a dead marriage and make a new start. But her husband, Jeff, increasingly depressed and mentally unstable, decides his family would be better off without him. After an altercation and a 911 call, the police (thankfully) evacuate Ronnie, her two sons, and her mother. Then follows a twelve-hour standoff as police negotiators try to talk Jeff down. Interspersed with the tension of waiting are the musings and flashbacks from the point of view of three very different women: Ronnie, her mother, Beverley, and Jeff’s mother, Janet. Each woman has buried secrets that may, or may not, have an impact on the situation. It’s human nature to require a concrete reason for a tragedy and to assign blame to anyone and everyone who might deserve to shoulder their share. Ronnie, Beverley, and Janet are no different, and they shift blame from one to the other before finally allowing the soul-searching that confronts their own faults, and the eventual realisation that this was Jeff’s decision alone and that none of them are to blame for his choices.
Kathryn has skilfully used fiction as a medium to explore the deeper issues from several perspectives, creating a book that will resonate with a broader audience than a single viewpoint memoir would have done. In the Q&A at the end of the book Kathryn explains that she decided to give herself plenty of time to develop her story of the standoff that changed her life. She says “Difficult life events require time to process… Although it is all about human emotion, literature is more than an outcry of grief or anger. [Readers] have no interest in being dragged through the muck and mire… unless they are going to gain new perspective about life.” Kathryn’s patience has paid off in producing a book that tackles a terrible topic without preaching, and delivering what hope there is to be found without compromising the tragedy.
Kathryn Craft is also the author of The Art of Falling, another excellent book which I reviewed last year.
The Far End of Happy contains adult themes, particularly strong suicide themes, and is not suitable for readers younger than 18 years unless it is read together with a trusted adult.
Disclosure: I am an online friend and former colleague of Kathryn Craft’s and received a free advance readers’ ebook of The Far End of Happy for review purposes.
Elle Carter Neal is the author of the picture book I Own All the Blue and the teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, holding childhood slumber-party audiences entranced until the early hours of the morning. Elle decided to be an author the day she discovered that real people wrote books and that writing books was a real job.