I knew about a quarter of the way through The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel that it was going to make me cry. But I was too far in to turn back. The central character, Kate, begins to have vivid dreams of her husband Patrick and their life together–a life that never happened because Patrick died twelve years earlier. Kate is naturally troubled by the dreams but finds comfort in them, compared to a reality where she still feels unsettled. Most surprising, though, is the appearance of a daughter, Hannah, who doesn’t exist in the real world.
If you read the reviews on Goodreads, you’ll see many saying that what would usually be an end-of-book reveal becomes obvious early on, and I’d agree. But I felt invested enough to continue, and wanted to know how it would all play out. Not everyone would feel that way, though, and that will be a major factor in whether I recommend this book. It’s entirely possible that the author meant it this way, that it was planned for us to suspect how things would end, and just stay along for the ride. It’s maybe not how I would have preferred to find out, but it didn’t ruin the book for me.
I liked the characters and enjoyed the subplots of Kate’s career (music therapy), how the appearance of a hard-of-hearing character launched her into learning ASL, and how she began to merge the two. It really just scratched the surface, of course, but I thought it was different and interesting. I loved Kate’s relationship with Patrick’s mother, Joan; it was well done and realistic. There were some fantastical elements but for me, they didn’t distract from the story.
Did I cry? Maybe a little. Am I sorry I read it? Not at all.