I’ve had this book on my to-read list for a bit. I am SO GLAD that I read this book. From page one, it held my attention.....I was annoyed at being interrupted while I was reading it. Always a good sign that I’m loving the story!
Ben and Maddie have been married 15 years. They have three children; their oldest being 14 year old Emma. Like any couple that has been in a marriage for a while, the day to day domestic have to’s have taken over and battle against their careers for time. Ben is the head honcho in the Public Defender’s Office; Maddie is a social worker. Ben's behavior is becoming more disturbing, making Maddie and the kids very uneasy when he is around. There is a horrific accident and Maddie is irreversibly injured. Ben has to step in to Maddie’s shoes and step up as a parent and a husband. He struggles all the way around. When Maddie learns of his actions, both pre and post accident, she must decide if Ben can be part of the new life the accident has foisted upon her and the family.
Ben and Maddie are two strong, well defined characters. I vacillated between liking and hating Ben but ultimately I rooted for him. Because the author writes the novel from the perspective of three characters - Ben, Maddie and Emma - a reader gets to see inside Ben’s head. He is egocentric but self aware. He knows his behavior is horrible and wants to be better to his wife and kids. He struggles to control his anger but it isn’t until he is on the brink of losing his family that he is desperate enough to be apologetic, humble and willing to change. I actually found Maddie harder to like. She is in denial that she is in an abusive relationship. Yet, she spends a great deal of her time in social work counseling women who are in abusive relationships. I understand her reluctance to see her reality but am frustrated that she didn’t take a firmer stance with Ben prior to the accident. It’s when she is physically at her weakest that she finds emotional strength, making some tough choices about the future of her marriage and family.
The perspective of Emma, their 14 turned 15 year old daughter, is realistic and valuable. The author captures that exterior toughness teen girls like to throw off but also exposes the insecurity and child like tendencies that still exist on the inside. Her entire family, including grandparents and aunt, leans heavily on her. This forces her to feel like she needs to be much older than she is and that conflict leads her to make some choices that are not in her best interest; they mirror some of the things her parents have done. I found her to be the only honest voice about how freaked out she is about her mother’s condition and how ambivalent she feels about her mother being home.
While I am happily married, I found I was able to identify with this marriage in so far as my husband and I have found ourselves at points in times not as attentive to one another as we should be. The tasks of every day life have, at times, clouded our ability to appreciate the family we’ve created. I think this is reality for a lot of couples and families. This story can definitely be viewed as a cautionary tale to be mindful of safekeeping relationships with these important people.
Ultimately, this is the story of family who didn’t appreciate that they were a family. It took a tragic event for all to open their eyes and see what they have in one another. The question of whether there has been too much of the proverbial water under the bridge to repair the relationships is what the characters and the reader need to decide.