Libby Moran is looking for a way out. Widowed with two young children, her only option in the wake of Danny’s death was to move in with her difficult mother. Still adrift three years later, a letter from a long-lost aunt arrives at just the right moment — and prompts her to reevaluate her family’s future. With Aunt Jean offering a place to stay in exchange for help on a working farm in Atwater, Texas, Libby makes an executive decision: she and the kids will feel more comfortable with goats than her mother.
Quitting her soul-sucking day job and piling Abby and Tank in the van, Libby sets out for Jean’s abode — and is fascinated by what she finds. At first exhausted by the early cycles of milking the goats, making cheese and taking their goods to local farmers’ markets, Libby settles into a rhythm with the help of O’Connor, a farm manager with his own complicated past. Rumor is he’s handsome, but you can barely tell with all the scruff.
With the support of an unlikely crew of family and new friends, Libby and the kids begin to discover that — even after tragedy — something can be gained from what was lost.
So. Katherine Center is awesome. I’ve read every one of her books, and they suck me in like nobody’s gull-darn business. The Lost Husband was no different, ending my somewhat hum-drum streak of starting and promptly abandoning books, and I was all up in this novel from start to finish.
Despite the heavy subject matter of Center’s latest (out May 7), this is not a serious story. It has serious elements, absolutely, and I may have teared up a few times, but like every story penned by this author? Well, at its core is a capable, loving heroine who doesn’t take herself too seriously . . . and the humor is what carries us through. The playful dynamic between Libby and O’Connor kept us from ever wading into misery, and the kids! Oh, the kids. Second-grader Abby stole every scene, and her little brother Tank also provided much-needed levity.
At its heart, The Lost Husband is about family — and carrying on in the face of tragedy. Three years after her husband’s sudden death, Libby is trying her best to keep her crew happy, healthy and together . . . and if that results in some helicopter parenting, I completely understood. When Abby is being bullied for a slight limp that lingers from a car accident, I wanted to swoop in there and read nasty PeePants Gavinski the riot act myself. Center’s great talent is creating families that feel like your family — and we’re with them every step of the way.
The plot’s quick pace had me glued to my e-reader, sneaking passages whenever possible, and I loved the introduction of Sunshine, a formerly-famous actress hiding out with her grandfather in Atwater. After Libby nearly runs her over on her first day in town, the two become unlikely friends — especially given Sunshine’s ability to “talk” to those on the other side. Informing Libby she can “find” Danny, the titular lost husband, the duo begin a series of “seances” that actually give them a chance to talk, unwind and vent.
More than anything, what Libby needs is a friend.
I was just . . . so pleased with this book. From its rural Texas setting to its vibrant, interesting characters to its descriptions of tough but bucolic country life, Center has created a winner of a tale in her latest work. The budding love story was well-balanced with depictions of family life (and all its complications), and I inhaled this book in just a few days. Fans of Center’s have another gem for their collection — and I expect The Lost Husband to win over new readers, too.
4 out of 5!