How Does a Dysfunctional Family Deal with Terminal Cancer?
November 8, 2014
Michael King's writing style makes this tough-as-nails work of fiction well worth reading. He uses two tiers of storytelling: one timeline is in the present where Jimmy Hutching and his wife Nena face down a diagnosis of advanced colon cancer and deal with the apathy of their adult children. The second tier is Jimmy's personal reminiscences of the past, beginning on the day he came home from school to find his father beating his mother. When he tried to protect her, his father beat him and threw him out of the house. Eventually he found work and a place to stay as a laborer on a horse ranch.
The two tiers intertwine and eventually the reader realizes that Jimmy's memories are the love story between him and Nena St. Claire, the rancher's daughter. The story is sweet but takes on an edge near the end. That part of the tale is mostly from Jimmy's perspective.
Nena Hutching wasn't all that surprised when medical tests and scans showed the presence of cancer. Her grandfather and father had both had it. But the diagnosis and treatment were still hard to cope with. She was afraid to die. The cancer was a monster, and in her dreams became someone she could not escape.
Each of the three siblings got a call from their father to tell them about their mother's cancer. None of the three wanted to visit her. The distance in her family hurt her, but Nena understood it as the natural consequences of her neglect years earlier.
"I hope you find this story not only moving and inspirational, but also deeply personal." [author Michael King] I did find this story a bit disturbing at first. There is cancer in my family and I understand the process well. I have seen it all first hand. The author writes this novel well, sets up the tension on both tiers, working it into an element of suspense, yet creates a satisfying conclusion. For me, it wasn't easy to read, not because of any problems with the book's level of interest, because it keeps the reader's attention very well, but it was a bit too personal. The story's pathos crept down deep and touched me. This book isn't one I'd pull off a bookshelf and read on my own for personal reasons, but I am glad I read it. The final scenes have the potential to bring the reader peace of heart, especially if they have gotten invested in the story emotionally.
The themes of family and reconciliation are dominant in this story. It takes awhile to reach a resolution for all the family members, and the ending may not happen in the way many of us readers want it to, but the conclusion implies there is more to come. For the Hutching family, it is simply a beginning of something better.
I enjoyed how the author expressed Jimmy's love for his Nena. His was a quiet strength that I found heart-warming and intriguing. He knew his father's tendency for violence and he was determined not to use brute strength in his own walk if at all possible. This placed him in an awkward position a few times when he needed to defend someone or himself physically. But when it came to Nena's welfare, he fought willingly for her; it was one thing she always loved about him. Now while they were fighting the cancer, he took this quiet strength to the next level which endeared him to me as a reader. I believe many other readers will admire this kind of strength in Jimmy too.
The author has a marvelous sense of timing in turning a story filled with sadness into triumph, sensitivity for subtleties in the lives of his characters, and the ability to communicate real-to-life spiritual issues in a conversational manner. I would be happy to read more of this author's books in the future.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the Booketeria on behalf of Charisma House Publishing (Realms). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
In this well written novel, we are taken into the lives of Nena and Jim. Nena inherited a horse farm in northern Virginia and she has spent her life trying to keep it from going bankrupt. It has been an all consuming job - even to the neglect of her children.
Now, as an older adult, the children gone far away, Nena discovers she has cancer. The cancer is serious. As she and Jim face the future, Jim's thoughts go back to their meeting and how he came to marry her.
Nena asks Jim to have their children come to see her before it is too late. It is not an easy task as there are antagonistic feelings toward their mother, the mother who abandoned their care for a more important farm.
King has managed to write a touching and thought provoking novel. It is a novel of memory, of forgiveness, and of restoration. King has cleverly paralleled the children's lives to that of their mother. Each of them must deal with issues they are facing.
I was amazed at how a novel about a woman dying of cancer could be so uplifting, so positive. It gives the reader a real sense of God working through all circumstances, even the death of a parent.
This is a novel of hope, even in the midst of a hopeless situation.
This is a novel of love, even when there has been hurt and separation.
It is a novel of God's forgiveness, despite Nena's reluctance to admit she needs it.
It is a novel of God's grace and restoration, even when the recipients are hesitant to participate.
Carve out a few hours of time because you will not want to put this novel down. And make sure you have some tissues near by. Enjoy.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Michael King in his new book "A Thousand Sleepless Nights" published by Realms brings us into the life of Jim Harding.
From the back cover: A family torn apart by neglect and hurt_And brought together again by a most unlikely force.
In the 1970s, escaping a home where he knew nothing but violence and hate, Jim Harding found work, and love, on the largest horse ranch in Virginia. The object of his affections, Nena St. Claire, is the daughter of the ownerâ€”a man who ruled his ranch with an iron fist and would do whatever it took to keep Nena and Jim apart.
Against the wishes of her family, Nena marries Jim, and after her father dies, she sacrifices everythingâ€”including her familyâ€”to keep the ranch alive. Now their three grown children have lives of their own and want nothing to do with Nena. She was never the mother they needed.
When cancer strikes and Nena is given a devastating diagnosis, can Jim reconcile the family before it is too late?
When individuals die what is the remorse felt by the loved ones left behind? Generally it is "I regret that I never patched up that problem that we had" or "we could have been closer if only I had forgiven instead of keeping them at a distance". When the individual is no longer here we long for one more chance to reconcile and say the things we never did but then, of course, it is too late. In "A Thousand Sleepless Nights" Michael King gives us a story where a family gets the chance to reconcile before there is a death. And there is a need for huge amounts of reconciliation in this family. We can all identify with at least one member of the Harding clan and that is what makes this book so touching and personal. Underneath this great story there are the themes of restoration, emotional healing and family. I liked "A Thousand Sleepless Nights" and am looking forward to more stories from Michael King.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from Realms for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Plumbing the depths of human emotion, A Thousand Sleepless Nights is a poignant, moving read. From the beginning, readers will be immersed into Nena and Jim's world, feeling their heartache as cancer ravages Nena's body, and mourning with the family for the mistakes that have been made, mistakes that continue to overshadow each family member. Michael King writes with a steady hand, as one familiar with the horror of cancer. As a result, his characters truly live and breathe as they adjust to a new reality, one that has rocked them to their core.
What I most appreciated about this book is how it brings to life the fact that "all things work together for good to those who love God" (Romans 8:28), that the cancer that is taking Nena's life also serves as a catalyst to bring healing to a broken family. That, indeed, is a powerful message that is desperately needed in a world of hurting people who often find it so hard to trust that God.
If you are looking for a deeply emotional book that will both entertain and leave you thinking about the nature of life and of faith, then this is the book for you. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Realms, for the purposes of this unbiased review.
A story of cancer, broken families, and God's love
October 19, 2012
â€˜A Thousand Sleepless Nights' is a powerful story of one family's battle with cancer and for wholeness.
Nena and Jim are the main characters of 'A Thousand Sleepless Nights.' Nena's cancer and past neglect of her family shadows or influences everything else in the story. Jim is her husband. His devotion to Nena and the three children (now grown) is apparent throughout the book. His story is split between the present and the past looking back at what led up to his meeting Nena and a short time after meeting her, some thirty years earlier. As the story progresses it becomes apparent that something happened in the past that Jim needs to deal with before it is too late. Roberta is the youngest of their children. She felt her mom's neglect the most and in her search for love has made some costly choices. Ken the middle child is trying to fill his emptiness with success, basically showing the same tendencies of his mom, only on his own path. The oldest, Barbara, is the one least broken by Nena's passion to save the ranch at any cost, but she too is battling health issues.
As Nena's cancer progresses and her health deteriorates, she begins to see the damage she has done to her entire family. Her determination once focused on saving the ranch finds a new focus. She must come to terms with what she has done as well as dealing with her cancer and possible death. As death's threat grows larger Nena becomes even more determined.
As a cancer survivor himself, Michael knows firsthand the heartaches and pains of cancer. He takes that knowledge and uses it to make a very realistic story.
Michael uses his writing talents to draw the reader into Nena and Jim's world, right along with Roberta, Ken, and Barbara. A world of pain, suffering, and yet hope.
I'd recommend â€˜A Thousand Sleepless Nights' to everyone. It is realistic, especially about cancer. It touches on humanity's greatest need (peace with God).
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author Michael King as a member of The Darlington Society. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."