The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner is an engrossing tale of a woman forced to confront her past. There’s a quiet sense to this book and the reveals come slowly. This one is definitely an emotional journey.
Certain aspects of this book make it stand apart. Most notably, the discussion of CTE in athletes and the difficult role of serving as a military spouse. I can tell Brenner did plenty of research going into this novel, specifically on those two subjects. But it’s not a book just about sports or the military but rather the power of forgiveness. Some themes includes the turmoil of secrets and the freedom felt when the truth is revealed. I’m keeping this spoiler-free but note that there are plenty of surprises in this one.
The book starts off at the funeral for Rory Kincaid, a professional hockey turned Army solider. His wife, Lauren, is under enormous grief and pressure, but she blames herself for Rory’s death, despite the fact he died overseas in combat. We eventually find out why she thinks this.
To escape reality, she hides out at her family’s beach house in the Jersey Shore. Four years later and with problems of their own, Lauren’s parents and sister move into the house for the summer. When a filmmaker who is making a documentary on Rory’s life comes into town, plenty of revelations are revealed.
Lauren and Rory were high school sweethearts and since day one, his sports aspirations took center stage while she quietly supported him. Lauren is now a widow in her late ’20s but she lives as a ghost. Merely existing but not actually living, haunted by her sorrows of losing Rory.
She’s less than thrilled when her family moves into the beach house. And there is tension between Lauren and her sister Stephanie. Lauren’s the daughter who always tries to do the right thing, while Stephanie constantly causes trouble. The complicated dynamics between the two of them are drawn out clearly. As the story unfolds, we learn more about their motivations. Their relationship is a strong component to the book.
Sometimes the setting is another character in the story. The Husband Hour takes place on a remote beach town and that impacts the story and interactions. If this story took place in a busy city like LA, would it have the same impact? Probably not. The remote location allowed Lauren to hide. But when her family and Matt comes, there’s no where else for her to go. She can’t keep running—literally—from her past. When Matt the filmmaker interviews her for his documentary, it marks the first time she talks about what really happened with her relationship with Rory. She has to finally address it.
The slow pace and quiet setting forces each of the characters to be more truthful. Maybe it’s hard to hide secrets from each other when you’re in a remote town with few distractions.
Impact of CTE and military focus
As I mentioned, the novel is timely with addressing head injuries in professional sports. With more studies revealing how CTE affects the brain, it’s a issue that must be addressed. For anyone that is a fan of professional sports, an athlete, a parent of an athlete, a spouse, a coach, etc., I think this should be a must-read. Brenner handles the subject as delicate as she can but she doesn’t shy away from the real consequences if left unaddressed.
In addition, we can never let ourselves forget the sacrifices of the military and the devastating reality of PTSD. This is also an important component of the novel. Both topics are hard to read at times.
Sometimes novels are entertainment from the daily grind, and other times, they truly can educate like The Husband Hour. It’s messy and complicated but there’s plenty of hope and love in there too. It will make you think.