Darlene Henderson and her husband Brad recently moved from big city life to a farm in rural Texas, where the kids are turning over a new, peaceful leaf and they're all settling into life in the slow lane. That is, until Darlene realizes that with their youngest child now doing well in middle school and less involvement with her children's activities, she has more time on her hands than ever - and nobody seems to need her. She takes a teacher's position in a local school for students with special needs, and the family scrambles to fill her homemaking shoes. In the commotion of the move, Brad's long daily commute, and Darlene's new schedule, however, nobody notices as each teen finds new temptations in small town life - and the Henderson marriage has trouble finding a new balance. When the handsome dad of Darlene's new student enters the picture, will he be just another ripple in the pond - or the final straw on the camel's back?
I've been a fan of Wiseman's work for a while - you can read my reviews of some of her other books here and here - and this one is even better. From the very beginning, although my children are still small and need much daily help, I could identify with Darlene, especially in her quest to be useful. She wants her work, whether at home, with her family, in her marriage, or at a paying job, to be of significance to somebody, and her family no longer notices the effort she puts forth for them each day.
As a wife and mom, I think that this is something that most of us can relate to: do we stay home? Do we work outside of the home? Is being available really that important? Are relatively clean floors and healthy meals of value, and if so, to whom? Today's American culture doesn't seem to value these efforts in the same way that it did 50 years ago, and Darlene feels the pressure to fill her time and be important. This struggle initally made me identify with Darlene, but it was her quest to find a solid friendship in her neighbor Layla and the issues with her kids that made me unable to put this book down.
Books where you can predict the ending are not fun. It's the question, the unanswered dilemma, the what-if that keeps the pages turning, and Wiseman has heaped them upon this book - in spades. What makes this book completely fascinating is that each question is a pressing concern in our society today, and yet they're all woven realistically into a tapestry that looks like a typical, caring American family. One wouldn't expect the Cleavers to have a rebellious son, a daughter who cuts, or a wife on the brink of an affair, and yet real families have real problems. The Hendersons do, too.
That is the best part of Need You Now. It reads like reality. It's taken from today's headlines and written in such a way that these issues could be a part of anybody's family. The script flows smoothly, so well written that it allows the text to fade away as the characters and scenes play out in front of you.
That is the excellence of Wiseman. I love her past work. This is my favorite so far. I can't wait to read the next one.
I received a free copy of Need You Now from B&B Media Group in exchange for an honest review.