8 April 2016

Review: Breaking Free by Jennifer Slattery

A Thought-provoking Read

Amazon Description

Sometimes it takes losing everything to grab hold of what really matters.

Women’s ministry leader and Seattle housewife, Alice Goddard, and her successful graphic-designer husband appear to have it all together. Until their credit and debit cards are denied, launching Alice into an investigation that only leads to the discovery of secrets. Meanwhile, her husband is trapped in a downward spiral of lies, shame, and self-destruction. Can they break free from their deception and turn to the only One who can save them? And will it be in time to save their marriage?

My Review

Breaking Free isn’t a fun read. It’s a hard-hitting story of a disintegrating marriage. At first, I thought gambler Trent was the one with the problem. But by halfway through, I was equally annoyed with both characters (and with Alice’s mother, and Trent’s boss. And both their children). Sure, Trent was taking the lead in lying, cheating and stealing to fund his gambling habit, but Alice wasn’t helping. She wasn’t addressing the issue. She wasn’t asking for help. She wasn’t even admitting there was a problem.

On one hand, I understood why. Alice and Trent were good church-going Christians (although Trent’s salvation may well be in question), and the church isn’t generally in favour of divorce. The novel opened with Alice having lunch with a group of her church “friends”, with the implication she didn’t really like any of them because they were all fake. Yet she was as fake as any of them, not trusting anyone—even her best friend—with the truth of what was happening in her life. This was annoying, as the opening implied a strong woman of God, but she was more doormat woman of mammon (on the plus side, this did give her plenty of room for character growth, which did happen albeit perhaps too quickly to be believable).

And that meant that instead of being a story of a disintegrating marriage, Breaking Free turned into a story of a disintegrating family. I couldn’t help but think things might have been different if Alice had been more Christian and less churchgoer. If she’d asked for God’s help.

That if she’d been a little more open about the problems between her and Trent, especially the money problems, that her sons might have had a little more grace and understanding towards her. On the other hand, should you tell your children stuff like that? They were teenagers, old enough to understand. Or is that turning the children into pawns?

Yes, Breaking Free was a frustrating read, but that’s what made it good. While Trent continually had the choice between good and bad decisions (to gamble or not to gamble, to pay the household bills or to use that money for gambling, to pay back the money he owed or to steal), Alice didn’t. Alice’s choices were between bad and bad, with no right answer. A best answer, perhaps. But no right answer. After all, there is no perfect formula for a marriage breakup.

But I did expect Alice, as a Christian and a women’s ministry leader, to turn to God, at least occasionally, even if she couldn’t turn to her friends. This is what made me think she was as big a fake as her so-called friends (and a hypocrite as well, for judging them). I found her passivity frustrating—she let a lot of this happen through her personal inaction. Sure, Trent’s gambling wasn’t her fault. But her lack of reaction was. So that was frustrating as well.

And the ending . . . too quick. And I’m not convinced it was believable, or that it would last. However, it’s still a solid read with an excellent message. You can find out more about author Jennifer Slattery at her website (http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com/), and you can read the beginning of Breaking Free here:

Thanks to New Hope Publishers and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

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