|This is the second time I have read one of Cynthia Reese’s stories and come away feeling a little depressed. It is difficult to recommend For the Sake of the Children.
Patrick Connor was a happy family man with three lovely daughters and a beautiful wife. But Jenny, his wife, left him and started another family. His daughter, Melanie, took his side in the divorce and to this day resents her mother. His daughter Lissa, who is the youngest, lived with her mother and yet tried and still tries to keep the peace. She and Melanie have a very strained relationship. The third daughter died of leukemia when she was just three. Annabelle has been dead now for almost 17 years. Everyone has moved on with their lives but Patrick. Oh, he goes through the motions, but he is still grieving.
Patrick is the chairman of the local school board, runs his own glass business and still maintains a friendship with his old high school buddy. But he rarely dates, and when he does, the relationship is cut off immediately when the lady starts to press, get too close or ask questions about the forbidden subject of his daughters.
Dana Wilson is divorced with a three-year-old little girl named Kate. She is the apple of her mother’s eye and is sugary sweet as only a three year old can be. Dana’s ex decided to leave her when she got pregnant. Dana is resentful and acknowledges she has trust issues, especially with men who cannot commit to a readymade family. Dana is the new nurse at the elementary school and is hoping that this move will give her a fresh start and fresh perspective.
Patrick and Dana don’t immediately hit it off, unless you consider some underlying sexual attraction hitting it off. They start off in a disagreement over the demands on the nurse and a seemingly silly system of checking kids who are asthma risks two times each day and then charting their numbers. Dana feels this is overkill. When she confronts Patrick he makes her come to the School Board meeting, where she discovers there is an ongoing battle over mold in the school and how best to get rid of it. One faction is for continual cleaning and keeping an eye on it while another wants a whole new school built. She is now in the middle.
The story follows these two as they argue, then make peace and then struggle with their on-again off-again feelings while fighting the battle to get a new school built. At the heart of their struggle is the inner war going on in Patrick’s family between his daughters, their mother, Patrick, and his inability to forget Annabelle. Dana and her three-year-old daughter just keep bringing up the feelings – which range from anger, to guilt to rage to grief/loss – and remind Patrick of what he can never get back. It also reminds him of what he considered his wife’s betrayal because she was able to accept the facts and realize that Annabelle was going to die even though she was fighting hard against the disease.
ARGH! Patrick is one of the more frustrating heroes I have come across. He is seriously depressed and refuses to get help of any kind. He has never even tried counseling. He has avoided kids and we are led to believe that he has been floating in this state of angst for all these years. Yet he resents it when his daughter tries to discuss it. On top of that, there is a glimpse that he is not alone in his inability to handle this situation – the whole family has bits and pieces of major post-grief stress.
Dana falls in love with Patrick, but I had a hard time believing it because I just didn’t see what there was to love. She is just insecure enough to put up with his verbal abuses and then let him back in whenever they have a falling out. I didn’t like this side of her and could not see a really happy future for them. I did appreciate that even at the end the author acknowledged in the tale that there was work to be done and it was not all stars and roses. But by this time, I felt sorry for Dana and really just wanted the story to end.
I found this tale too depressing and too angst-filled to be acceptable. I also found it light on the romantic side. I recommend that you steer clear of For the Sake of the Children.