Jennie Bateman screamed at her daughters, cursed at her husband, packed a bag, and walked away. Twelve years later, she petitions the family court for visitation with her daughters, Alexis and Christa.
Her attorney tells Jennie that, ordinarily, she could not imagine that some type of visitation would not be granted. But, she warns, the situation is hardly ordinary. True, Jennie suffered from a bipolar disorder when she began to drink heavily, abandoned her family, and moved in with another man. True, she has turned her life around: leaving her boyfriend, returning to school, entering therapy, taking medication, finding a job, and joining a church.
But she pressed no claim for her children when her husband divorced her, and she has made no attempt to contact them in any way since then. Her daughters, now sixteen and fourteen, live four hundred miles away. They have busy lives that do not include her, lives that will be totally disrupted by the visitation that she requests. Their father is engaged to be married to a woman who has taken the role of their mother for a decade. Alexis remembers nothing good about Jennie. Christa recalls nothing at all.
Conflict ensues as soon as Jennie’s petition is served: her former husband does not want to share his children with the woman who deserted him; her children have no interest in knowing the mother who abandoned them, and her father insists that she is being timid and ought to demand full custody, not simply visitation.
As court convenes, Jennie’s past is dredged up− the desertion, the men, her drinking, her mental health − and paraded before the judge. Her claim to be a different person, now, is attacked. The judge hesitates to grant Jennie’s request, but reluctantly agrees to order three trial visits.
If persuading the judge to let her see her children was difficult, convincing them to allow her to be a part of their lives seems to be almost impossible. What happens as she finally begins to connect with her daughters places them all in grave danger and threatens her life, itself.
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About the author
Review: This is the second book I've read by this author, and once again his writing has touched my heart and soul. To Fall In Love Again was about a couple in my age group finding love, which resonated with me in so many instances. Those Children Are Ours is also about mature adults, but in a very different circumstance.
There were so many levels to this story, and the author managed to make them all realistic, and make all the pieces fit together just right. We have a mother who is a recovering alcoholic, as well as dealing with mental health issues; a father who has had to raise two young girls for more than a decade; the two girls who each deal with their mother's return in very different ways; the father's fiance, who has been the only mother the girls really know; the maternal grandfather who is about as chauvinistic and backward-thinking as you can get, and a host of other family members and friends.
I hated that Thomas and his attorney were able to use Jennie's past against her, when she had worked so hard to get past it, but I also know that is how the system works. The interactions between Jennie and her daughters were extremely realistic--at times I could see my own daughters in their conversations.
The climax of the story was VERY emotional, and my heart was racing, wondering how it was going to be resolved. The last four pages were a bit of a surprise, but definitely a happy one.
Rating: Five stars
David Burnett lives in Columbia South Carolina, with his wife and their blue-eyed cat, Bonnie. The Reunion, his first novel, is set in nearby Charleston.
David enjoys traveling, photography, baking bread, and the Carolina beaches. He has photographed subjects as varied as prehistoric ruins on the islands of Scotland, star trails, sea gulls, a Native American powwow, and his grandson, Jack. David and his wife have traveled widely in the United States and the United Kingdom. During one trip to Scotland, they visited Crathes Castle, the ancestral home of the Burnett family near Aberdeen. In The Reunion, Michael's journey through England and Scotland allows him to sketch many places they have visited.
David has graduate degrees in psychology and education and previously was Director of Research for the South Carolina Department of Education. He and his wife have two daughters.
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