This review is based on a free copy of the book given to me by the author via Brook Cottage Books
THOSE CHILDREN ARE OURS
BY DAVID BURNETT
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. Her daughters are now sixteen and fourteen. They live four hundred miles away, and they have busy lives that do not include her, lives that will be totally disrupted by the visitation that Jennie requests.
Their father is engaged to be married to a woman who has taken the role of their mother for a decade, and neither child wants anything to do with Jennie. Alexis remembers nothing good about her. 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 believes that she is being timid and ought to demand full custody, not visitation.
As court convenes, Jennie’s past is dredged up− the desertion, the men, her drinking, her mental health − and hauled before the judge. Her claim to be a different person, now, is attacked. When the judge appears to be reluctant to grant Jennie’s request, but seems to feel that she must, her husband’s attorney suggests three trial visits, hoping that they will go so badly that Jennie will come to her senses and drop her petition.
Jennie wants to be a part of her children’s lives, but can she convince them to allow her to try?
For me, this is a strong read.
It’s not often I start a book by actively disliking the protagonist. But in Those Children are Ours by David Burnett, I felt a complete aversion towards Jennie Bateman. And, I think, this is what the author was striving for in creating this rounded character. Because, quite soon, there is a drastic change in her and the reader becomes more empathetic towards her. As, I think, so do the other characters in the book.
Although the blurb for the book gives quite a lot of the story away, I try in my reviews not to give spoilers, so I will only say what I admire in this book.
The narrative details of both of the protagonist’s extended family and her estranged ex-husband’s family run perfectly in juxtaposition and it is easy for the reader to sympathise with both sides of this emotionally complicated story.
Each character springs from the page; they are so well drawn. I particularly liked the way the difference between the two daughters is shown -and how each deals with the situation as the plot evolves.
The dialogue between the main characters of the families, and the internal dialogue, is extremely well written, although, sometimes, I did think the protagonist’s father, Atkins Bateman’s, dialogue was too quickly melodramatic and didn’t always fit in with the narrative. But that is my only quibble and perhaps that was how the character was meant to be portrayed.
The points of view were always clear and concise for me and I had no trouble following the both the dialogue or the narrative even though there are sometimes rapid shifts, both in who is speaking and in the changes of settings.
And there are excellent descriptions of the settings throughout the story which give clear sense of place, wherever the characters are.
All in all, I really enjoyed Those Children are Ours and have no hesitation in recommending this novel
ABOUT DAVID BURNETT
We recently moved to our new home near Charleston, South Carolina. Three of my four books are set in Charleston, and I’ve always enjoyed the Carolina beaches. I now have the opportunity to walk on the beach near our home almost every day and to photography the ocean, the sea birds, and the marshes that I love.
I love photography, and I have photographed subjects as varied as prehistoric ruins on the islands of Scotland, star trails, sea gulls, and a Native American powwow. My wife and I have traveled widely in the United States and the United Kingdom. During trips to Scotland, we visited Crathes Castle, the ancestral home of the Burnett family near Aberdeen, and Kismul Castle on Barra, the home of my McNeil ancestors.
I went to school for much longer than I want to admit, and I have degrees in psychology and education. In an “earlier life” I was Director of Research for the South Carolina Department of Education. My wife and I have two daughters and, by the time you read this, four grandchildren.
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