Books can be incredible in a credible way. And while the plot at the centre of Kathryn Craft’s The Far End of Happy is incredible, the web within which it is placed will feel credible to many.
Although they started their married life giddy with excitement at the bright future before them, Ronnie and her husband Jeff have grown apart, so much so that Ronnie has asked for a divorce. But on the morning Jeff is supposed to move out, he pulls into the driveway of their farm, drunk and with a shotgun in the front seat. The situation quickly goes from bad to worse as Jeff barricades himself in one of the house’s adjacent buildings.
Three women are at the centre of the twelve hour standoff between Jeff and the police: Ronnie, Beverly, and Janet. Wife, mother-in-law, and mother are trying as best they can to figure out how it got to this point—and it is through their musings that Craft expertly weaves a tales of denial and miscommunication spanning decades.
The story, captivating from its very first pages, is at its core a family drama. While an armed standoff seems like quite an incredible event in any person’s life, the lead-up to it is much more familiar, as lack of communication between the members of the family and neglect of precious relationships have caused many close people to drift apart. The tension of the standoff between Jeff and the police is suspenseful and adds spice to the story, but its heart is the complex web of relationships, broken hearts, unfulfilled promises, and lies that people tell themselves when scared to face the truth. The real suspense lies in the fact that these are patterns of behavior every family struggles with to some extent.
Craft is an excellent storyteller. I especially appreciated how she abstained from labelling the characters good or evil. They are all just painfully human, both making mistakes and achieving victories in the way that all humans do. Neither Jeff, Ronnie, Beverly, nor Janet come away as either good or evil. Rather, they all come off as human beings who suffer through what can be kindly described as a day from hell.