Review and Giveaway: The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft

The Far End of Happy is a powerful new novel based on author Kathryn Craft’s personal experience with a stand-off involving her husband.  Here Craft delivers “real, raw emotion” (Library Journal) exploring a marriage unraveled by mental illness; and one man’s spiral towards a violent conclusion that tests the courage, love, and hope of the three women he leaves behind.

“Framing the novel within a 12-hour period keeps the pages turning (Library Jounral).” Narrating from the alternating perspectives of three women, whose lives will be forever altered by Jeff Farnham, gives an intimate look at the steps a woman will take to get the help her husband so urgently needs while desperately trying to keep her children safe.

When the emotionally troubled Jeff engages police in a deadly stand-off, his wife, mother-in-law, and mother struggle to understand why the man they love has turned his back on the life they have given him, the one they all believe is still worth living.

As a blogger, I tend to read more indie published books... I do so for so many different reasons.  When books like this come my way, I snatch up the opportunity.  Traditionally published books tend to get overlooked more and more these days.  I am not sure why.  Maybe it's their cost?  Maybe it's the advertising?  Whatever the case may be, we need to not forget that gems like these need to be read too.

How do you describe something so profound?  This book is a true work of literary fiction.  So raw, so real.  This story is one that will have you sobbing and clutching your heart.

I can't figure out where to start or where to go with this review.  This book is so profound, so heartbreaking.  It's almost hard to put my feelings for it into words.  I find myself just wanting to tell you to read this book.  If you are looking for something deep, personal, raw, captivating, then this is a book for you.  It's so surreal that it seems as if it's a biography instead of a work of fiction.

The twelve hour journey between Jeff's wife, her mother and Jeff's mother gives you not just insight to the situation at hand, but also the insight to what has lead to this moment over time.  You get so much of who these characters were and are, you will find yourself asking why hadn't anyone seen this coming?  The self-denial and self-blame in the story alone will have your mind racing and your heart pounding.

Every family has secrets.  There are those things that no one discusses.  Whether they just choose to ignore what's right in front of them, or they are ashamed and want things hidden, it doesn't matter.  There are always secrets that will come to the surface when it's too late.  That is exactly what happens in this story.

Jeff is holed up in his store's office.  Shotgun in hand, ready to end his life.  End his suffering.  His mental-illness has gotten to the point where he can't think clearly and wants to suffer no more.  Had this always been an issue with him?  Had his entire life lead up to this standoff?  Or was it his drinking?

Jeff's mother wants to believe that her son is perfectly normal.  He is where he is because of his nagging wife.  She is set on the wife causing their problems.  The blame is to be left to his wife.

Jeff's wife has tried so hard to get him the help he needed.  His refusal and denial of his problems has lead him to his current situation.  She wants to feel empathy for him.  How can she?  She has done everything in her power to try to save him from himself.  Her love for him seems to have been buried deep inside of her with no hope of surfacing, even in this tragic time.

Jeff's mother-in-law can't seem to wrap her head around the situation.  She is caught in the middle.  Jeff's mother has been her best friend for decades.  But shouldn't loyalties lie with your blood?  Her daughter?  She tries to remain the rock for these women all the while play peace keeper.  She knew her son-in-law had some issues.  She hadn't realized just how bad they were.  Her denial of her own past and the now have now intertwined into one big mess.  A mess that could be life-altering.

This book isn't just about mental-illness and alcoholism.  It's also about self-discovery and retribution.  This book shows that denial and secrets can rip a family apart.  It's also about healing and finding strength in family.

Ronnie already wanted to rewrite this story. To edit the cop’s words. To distance herself, change “husband” to “the man.” The man now staggering around the property with a gun; the man who may already have taken a shot; the man whose angst was seeping into her own nerves. Her husband—the gentle soul she’d married—would never have acted like the man she’d engaged with earlier today.

“Call him Jeff, please,” she said quietly.

“I’m going to need you to recount all that transpired this morning with your—” He caught himself. “With Jeff. Leave nothing out. You never know what will be important.”

The recitation she gave was devoid of animation. She felt empty and prickly, like an October cornfield in need of nutrients and a long, restorative winter. An evacuation from her home, beneath the cover of a helicopter dispatched from the state capitol, to protect her from her own husband? Ronnie felt as if her family had suddenly been thrust into an unwanted audition for a high-stakes reality show. Every few moments, as she delivered facts, she looked over at her mother, who was speaking quietly to Janet. She wondered if Beverly’s version differed. If her mother, or Jeff’s, blamed her. Because to them, and the rest of the world, it must look as if Jeff had been knocked off balance because Ronnie had decided to leave him.

It even looked that way to her.

The officer told Ronnie their primary goal was to locate Jeff, since he was armed and dangerous.

“Please don’t say that in front of his mother,” she said. “Or the boys. Jeff isn’t a dangerous person. He’s sweet. Everyone would tell you how nice he is. Very laid back.” Too laid back. He never cared enough. “It’s just that we’re getting a divorce, and today was the day he promised to move out. He’s...” Drunk off his ass. “Agitated.”

Ronnie rubbed her arms—the room suddenly chilled her. She hadn’t thought to grab a jacket. The room’s narrow, high-set windows, made of glass bricks, were meant to obscure natural light. This was a room designed to allow sparkles from a mirror ball, gropes in the shadows.

And so what? She was cold. She felt selfish thinking about it, with Jeff frozen all the way to the center of his soul.

“Could you give me a physical description of your husband so we can identify him by sight?”

All that she and Jeff had meant to each other, all the intricacies of their marriage, boiled down to the same physical attributes that had first attracted her to him. “Five foot ten. Dark brown hair, thick, trimmed over ears some might call large.” Soft ears that lay flat against his head beneath her kisses. “Blue eyes.” Eyes that used to pierce her through with their naked honesty. “Broad hands.” Strong hands that always needed a project, now wrapped around a gun.

Kathryn Craft, a former dance critic who wrote for The Morning Call daily newspaper in Allentown, Pennsylvania, for nineteen years. Craft wrote exclusively nonfiction until she was plunged in the kind of real-life drama that demands attention. In 1997, after fifteen years of marriage, her husband committed suicide in a police standoff, leaving her and their two young sons.

The Far End of Happy was born from Craft’s need to make sense of what her husband had done. Kathryn has been a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene for more than a decade and is also the author of The Art of Falling. She lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

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“A complex and gripping story of broken hearts, lives, and marriages that will tear you apart from beginning to end.” —Steena Holmes, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Memory Child and Finding Emma

“Kathryn Craft keeps the tension edge-of-your-seat suspenseful in The Far End of Happy… unflinchingly honest and hard-hitting.” —Kate Moretti, author of the New York Times bestselling Thought I Knew You, and Binds That Tie

“Compellingly written, the tension builds throughout the book and the reader comes out the other side with more insight, and more compassion, for those who may find themselves on the far end of happy.” —Catherine McKenzie, bestselling author of Hidden

“Kathryn Craft is a masterful storyteller who weaves a heartbreaking story packed with tension and brimming with humanity.” —Lori Nelson Spielman, author of The Life List

“An incredibly honest and courageous exploration of a marriage torn apart by neglect and threats of suicide. Craft’s ability to tell a tale as beautiful as it is haunting left me in awe. Not one to miss!” —Mary Kubica, author of The Good Girl

“Captivated from page one…Craft expertly weaves a gripping tale that hits the reader hard and keeps moving briskly to its heartbreaking but hopeful conclusion.” —Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden

“The Far End of Happy gives us a newsworthy tragedy from the inside out. In sharply intimate language, Kathryn Craft deftly weaves her story out of many stories, some buried in the past, some fresh as a new wound, stories of true love, of families carefully built and then painfully unraveled, of a good man’s life ravaged by alcoholism, and of the guilt, anger, hope, and tremendous strength of the women and children who love him.” --Marisa de los Santos, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Love Walked In, Belong To Me, and Falling Together

“Kathryn Craft pulls off a miracle of story telling, weaving together the initial magic spell of a couple entwined, the sad shredding of their love and family, fueled by alcohol, and the truth of the past binding them—all revealed throughout twelve hours of a tragic suicide standoff.” --Randy Susan Meyers, bestselling author of Accidents of Marriage