Thursday, June 11, 2015

"The Far End of Happy"

Long a leader in the Southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, writing teacher and developmental editor Kathryn Craft is the author of The Art of Falling.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her second novel, The Far End of Happy, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Where are your rings?”

For years he had ignored her in every way that counted; Ronnie was surprised he’d even noticed. She hadn’t meant to make a public statement. As kindly as she could, she said, “Let’s talk tonight, Jeff. At home, like we planned.”

After Tae Kwon Do, they got drive-through burgers and ate on the way to parent-teacher night. Ronnie—and Jeff too, she was sure—pretended to listen to the teachers and look at the projects on the wall, slapping smiles over twisting guts and draining hearts. When they finally got home and Jeff declined her invitation to join in on the boys’ bedtime rituals, she skipped reading the boys a book by promising two the next night.

Ronnie rejoined him in the living room. He sat on the love seat; she sat on the couch.

Jeff spoke first.
“I was going to shoot myself tonight.”
She wasn’t sure she heard him right. He wasn’t hysterical. He could have been saying, I was going to watch football, but the Eagles weren’t playing. Ronnie couldn’t focus on the magnitude of what he was saying; she got stuck on the word “shoot.”

It only took another moment to add it up: he’d already come up with a plan, and it involved a gun.
Based on the twelve hours of my first husband’s suicide standoff at our idyllic little farm in rural Pennsylvania, The Far End of Happy explores the perspectives of three women—Ronnie, her mother Beverly, and Jeff’s mother Janet, all whisked to the safety of a nearby fire hall—who must make tough choices and face shameful secrets while awaiting word about Jeff’s standoff against police at the farm.

This backstory excerpt contextualizes the tragedy unfolding in this marriage. Ronnie, no longer able to handle her husband’s drinking and financial secretiveness, takes one symbolic action to assure herself that she can control her destiny—she removes her wedding rings—and in doing so her life spins further out of control. Modern mothers will no doubt relate: busy as she is ferrying her two active sons from one thing to the next, in recent years Ronnie has assumed that she and her husband had hit a rough patch that would resolve as the boys grew older, missing signs that he was losing his grip on life.

Ronnie and Jeff will live through the night depicted in this excerpt, but she can only protect herself and her children if she leaves the marriage behind. This won’t be easy. Breaking her vow to the man she has loved for fifteen years has already drained her. At the opening of the novel Ronnie bolsters her spirit with the notion that today Jeff will move out.

But Jeff has no intention of leaving. He pulls into the driveway drunk and armed, and after his son’s 911 call, digs in against police. For every agonizing moment that remains of that day, Ronnie must decide whether she will cave in to Jeff’s demands or face off against her decision’s life-or-death stakes.
Visit Kathryn Craft's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue