Those Children are Ours is the story of Jennie, a dysfunctional young woman, who made a mess of her life due to unwise choices, mental illness, and alcoholism. Twelve years after walking out on her husband and two daughters, her life is back on track. Thanks to the passing of time, religion, and her psychologist, she no longer drinks or sleeps around. Her mental condition is under control and she is working as a teacher.
However, Jennie is still immature and insecure. She is also coping with personal problems, such as a drunk ex-boyfriend and a violent and unsupportive father. Surprisingly, she decides, or rather is convinced, that she wants to see her daughters again.
It takes her time to realize she can’t take up where she left off and expect everyone to forget and forgive how she destroyed the family she once had. Her ex-husband and his daughters’ lives have moved on, they have busy and well-organized schedules, and a step-mother and step-sisters they are very fond of. Jennie discovers she is an unwelcome and unloved intruder.
Although the events narrated are heart-wrenching, and the time period covered is long, from Jennie’s College Days to her mid thirties, it’s so fast paced and well written that it’s a pleasure to turn the pages and follow the evolution of Jennie’s dramatic and traumatic life. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. I read it in two sittings. I especially enjoyed the court hearings and the realistic dialogues throughout.
It’s a disturbing, contemporary family drama, which makes the reader become involved and take sides. There are various generations and relatives involved; parents, step-parents and siblings, children, grandparents, grandchildren, uncles and aunts. It was hard for me to feel much sympathy for Jennie, especially at the beginning of the novel, but I gradually came to understand and feel compassion for her.
The author cleverly moves the narrative from, ‘Those children are mine’, a selfish cry from all of the adults involved, to a more balanced, ‘Those children are ours’, which appears on the final page. The way the characters and plot evolves to reach an unexpected, yet realistic and hopeful ending, makes the reading experience meaningful and thought-provoking.