Dean is the local football coach. He's a huge figure in the community, a minor celebrity of sorts, not least because his teams through the years have been incredibly successful. He is consumed by his coaching, especially since he's a little bit lonely in his marriage sometimes. Despite this, when on a family vacation to his father's farm, his wife Nicole, hangs herself, he is blindsided. In the wake of her suicide, he needs to try and pick up the pieces not only of his own life but also that of their children. Stepdaughter Stephanie is reluctantly getting ready to leave for college for the first time and her ambivalence about leaving her remaining family comes out in rebelliousness and acting out. Eighth grader Robbie, who likes acting over sports, is the one who found his mother in the barn. He starts cutting school and running off as his way to deal with his grief. And sweet little Bry works hard at seeing the best of everyone, trying to cause no one any trouble in this already overwhelming time.
As Dean tries to find the way through for his children, he finds that everything has changed. Football can no longer dominate his every waking hour. He resigns, taking on the less time intensive job of coaching the girls' cross country team. But even with more attention from their father, the kids are floundering. And Dean is too. He feels badly for having feelings about another woman. He is confused and feels guilty even though nothing he could have done would have fixed Nicole's depression. All he can do for himself and his children is to fumble through and do his best, learning what they all need to start healing as they go along.
This is a quiet novel, all of the action taking place in the aftermath of Nicole's suicide. Gersen has done a nice job showing the impact of this sad and desperate act on a family and the children, including extended family in the character of Nicole's sister. She allows her characters to struggle and to make poor decisions, highlighting the fact that each person is affected differently and must grieve in their own way. The narration shifts, showing Dean, Stephanie, and Robbie's internal concerns, hopes, and fears, and making their poor decisions more sympathetic to the reader than they might have been. The narrative tension is not particularly high at any point even though there are plot situations that might have raised it. In fact, this business of the everyday, shot through with the complication of making a new life without Nicole, is, for the most part, unremarkable, sensitive, and realistic.
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Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.