The Reasons by Kevin Craig

REASONS
The Reasons by Kevin Craig
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (110 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In the midst of absence, death, and insanity, Tobias longs to make his family whole again.

With a mostly absent father, a deceased older sister, a younger sister on the verge of invisibility, and a certifiably insane mother, Tobias Reason is forced to grow up quickly. Though he tries to be a surrogate parent to his sister, their broken mother, Maggie, takes up a lot of his time. Annabel falls to the wayside and becomes a ghost in their chaotic existence.

When Maggie flippantly hands her mother’s house over to Tobias, he sees an opportunity to learn how and why his family became so shattered. Be careful what you wish for. When his world begins to collapse from the weight of unburied secrets, he focuses on a stranger from his parents’ past. Only by eliminating the past, he believes, can he make his family whole again.

How far would you go to keep your family together?

Tobias’ reaction to growing up in a dysfunctional family is so realistic I briefly wondered if this story was based on true events. Every single member of the family has been damaged by Maggie’s illness in some way, and seeing how each one of them reacts to their chaotic surroundings is utterly fascinating. Despite sharing DNA and the same environmental influences each character’s personality heavily influences his or her reaction to Maggie’s unpredictable nature. This tale was so compelling and well-written that I skipped out on sleep in order to finish it. The author packed a novel’s worth of character development into the first half of this novella alone, and I couldn’t wait to find out how it would end.

It took me a while to figure out that this book was meant to have a contemporary setting. Maggie’s mental illness is so severe that at times I had trouble believing that she was allowed to retain custody of her children without any investigation from The Children’s Aid Society in Ontario or Quebec. She regularly neglects and abuses her kids, and when she does something much worse than that later on the plot I was stunned by how the other adults react to her dangerous choices. While I understand that not every case of abuse is reported to the proper authorities much less prosecuted, it would have been helpful to to know why so many people looked the other way when they noticed something was terribly wrong with the Reason family over the approximately 30 year time span in which Maggie has minor children living with her.

With that being said, Mr. Craig’s decision to write some chapters from Maggie’s point of view was a fantastic one. Due to the severity of her illness not everything Maggie fervently believes actually makes sense, but seeing the world through her eyes gave me valuable clues about her probable diagnosis. It also helped me understand why her mood shifts so quickly and why seemingly innocuous questions make her so furious. Once I understood the nature of the disease I believe she has I gained a great deal of sympathy for someone who otherwise would have been a fairly two-dimensional character.

I was also pleased with how smoothly the plot transitions from past to present. Every flashback serves a vital purpose, most of which are apparent almost immediately. During the course of reading this book I actually wished there could be more flashbacks because they taught me so much about how Tobias and Maggie in particular came to be the people they are in present day.

While reading The Reasons I felt asleep each night wondering what would happen to Tobias and his little sister next. This is a great choice for anyone who loves character-driven plots that keep the reader on his or her toes from beginning to end.

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