Small Hours: A Novel by Jennifer Kitses

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“Her hands were shaking. Her body was covered in a sickening sweat. She didn’t want to know. She pushed against it, refusing to allow it to come in.” 

The above excerpt really hits home in any marriage/partnership. Some secrets are devastating some are small but all are a freeloading squatter you never invited into your relationship. You can’t close your eyes tight enough to the truth, it always rips the seams of the unseeing. There is a sickening despair in finding out the truth when you’re being betrayed by the person you love most. It has been two years since  Helen and Tom moved from New York to a former mill town, Devon. A town that showed promise, where plans were surely in the works- and at first they could afford a home. But things got tight financially, they are stuck and Helen blames herself for falling for the sell of the dream. Helen is about to have a terrible encounter with two teenage girls and everything crumbles over a day.

Tom has been struggling with his focus, with the disappointments of their choices but none more so than his own indiscretion that has him split in two. On the surface he is ‘one of the good guys’ but what does that mean, really?  A loving father, one whom their twins prefer over their mother Helen but he is a terrible father too for different reasons. Tom is being drowned by a monster of his own creation, and its tentacles are about to pull his entire family under. He can’t, in good conscience, keep living a lie when it affects the innocent. Not all mistakes can be erased, and Tom comes to realize he doesn’t want them to be even if it topples his world. What he has held close will change his wife and daughters, he is at a turning point that could risk devastation but is there hope?

So much I would love to say about this novel but can’t without giving it away entirely. The reader is furious for Helen, and yet comes to understand that sometimes it’s too easy to slip into subterfuge. Helen is overworked, under far too much stress and has always lived doing what’s right, being responsible. Something is building inside of her that comes to a head with the incident with the teenagers. Tom has a safe arrangement at first, but deception eats away at those closest to us, it is a haunting presence that over time threatens to destroy the family he has built. Helen relies on Tom, but is his lie larger than the fear of being alone? There is a hatred of the truth, that we are forced either to ignore or confront it- it makes demands on us. There is  a sickening, heaviness that burrows into our hearts, guts when we discover things about our loved we didn’t want to be true, things that can’t remain ‘unknown’. Maybe that is love, uncovering those rotten bits and loving a person in spite of it all.

Mistakes can come with heavy consequences, they can swallow us whole but they also can be a gift. I found myself feeling sorry for Tom and I imagine many readers having a different take. “Well, had he just been straight from the start…” of course, that is the most logical answer but truth isn’t the easiest path. Truth hurts as much as lies, but it always comes to the surface in the end. Sometimes even ‘the good ones’ make a mess of their life, and what difference do intentions make by that point? The situation is not at all far fetched. I put myself in Helen’s shoes and wondered how I would react, and there is no easy answer. Add this to your summer reading list. I imagine this novel could fire off some heated discussion in a book club.

Publication Date: June 13, 2017

Grand Central Publishing

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