But actually, I’m going to write a review for her novel “The Kindness of Strangers” because it was even better than the one that nearly made my son an orphan. So…well, just read both. That’s my takeaway if you don’t feel like reading the rest.
WARNING: The Kindness Of Strangers deals with childhood sexual abuse, and I believe a few regulars here might (would) get triggered by the events narrated in the book. Anyone who tries to avoid triggers should also avoid the rest of this review.
The Kindness Of Strangers revolves around two families, each broken in a different way. The first consists of a widowed mother (Sarah) and her two sons, ages sixteen and twelve, and they’re still aching from the loss of their father two years prior. When Sarah’s best friend’s son Jordan attempts suicide, it emerges that his father has been sexually abusing him, and his mother is suspected to have done so as well.
Sarah’s family opens to include Jordan, taking him in as a foster child even as the authorities struggle to implicate his mother and Jordan does everything in his power to reunite with his mother.
I found the characters compelling because of how realistically they reacted to the information (discovered piecemeal, again realistic) that the unthinkable had been taking place right in front of them. Nate and Sarah also deal with struggles in their own lives that highlight aspects of the struggles Jordan faces.
Kittle addresses the complicated issue of emotional healing after violation — both physical/sexual and emotional. She explores the selfish and unselfish reasons for one person to help another, as well as the complex and contradictory ways we react to help in our darkest hours.
Because I’m a curmudgeon, I have a few nitpicks. The ending wrapped up a little too neatly for me, although I’d prefer not to say why for spoiler reasons. I also thought that in a few places Nate was written to appeal to the adult women readers in the audience (ie, moms like me). Nate is introduces as a rebellious teen who’s in trouble with the school and may get in trouble with the law, but as it turns out, he’s really a golden-hearted, thoughtful young man. I liked him, of course, but I found the setup (through his mother’s eyes and the lens of her fears) and the execution were at odds.
My other nitpick is that Kittle worked a lot of research into the story, so while she gives what I believe is a dead-on-target depiction of childhood sexual abuse and the mindset of the victims, she also wanted to make sure all her research made it into the story. I felt one of the plot twists and some of the exposition were written in order to get information into the book that didn’t otherwise fit.
Overall, I enthusiastically recommend The Kindness of Strangers. Katrina Kittle’s novel The Blessings of the Animals will be published this August. I will be reading that as well, and at some point I’ll also track down her novel Traveling Light.
Disclaimer: I was not provided with a free copy of either book by the publisher for review purposes. I was provided with free copies by my local library for reading purposes, and I wrote a review of my own accord.