PUBLICATION DATE: SEPTEMBER 16, 2012
ena Hutching was a good wife and mother until her father died leaving her the family’s heavily indebted thoroughbred ranch. For years Nena fought to keep the ranch going, sacrificing her family along the way. But now, with the stables empty and her children far from home, Nena is left with her loving husband, Jim, and the ominous diagnosis of colon cancer. As she reflects on her life, she begins to question her past decisions as well as contemplate her daunting future.
Meanwhile, each of Jim and Nena’s children are facing their own struggles and ironically they mirror many of Nena’s failures. From their stubborn drive to succeed to their reluctance to accept help and comfort, her children’s current issues mirror their mom’s personality. But despite these similarities, there is a deep seeded resentment towards their mom and her virtual abandonment during their childhood. With Nena facing the fight of her life, can the family come together and stand with her or will the few remain threads be permanently severed? Mixing Jim and Nena’s past with the current events, A Thousand Sleepless Nights is a touching story, though a little bit too tidy and neat for my personal preference.
When I first heard that Michael King, aka Mike Dellosso, would be writing a Nicholas Sparks type novel, I literally groaned. This really isn’t a genre I particularly enjoy. However, I love Mike’s work and a simple change in genre was not going to keep me from giving it a try.
For this style of book, it’s actually very good. I was easily drawn into the story and loved the characters. With the inclusion of Jim and Nena’s backstory, there is even a nice amount of suspense included, making this novel a rewarding read.
While much of this book is a family relational drama, it does have a sweet romantic element that runs throughout the story. I very much enjoyed reading about Jim and Nena’s past and how they came to love one another. There is a strong element of enduring, persistent love which is quite lovely to read. Jim’s patient, gentle nature is the perfect compliment to Nena’s outgoing, strong, persistent personality. As their story progresses, it somewhat over-takes the present day events and ultimately was my favorite part of the book.
I also enjoyed following the progression of Nena’s character as she works through the cancer diagnosis and faces the very real threat of death. King gives the reader quite a bit to think about—both straight forward evangelical teaching and more personal introspective thoughts. Since Nena’s family was ultimately torn apart due to her lack of involvement in their life, this book does a wonderful job of exploring regret and hopeful reconciliation. Mike’s admonition to live life without regrets is not only poignantly presented, it’s quite compelling and encouraging.
I do have a couple of complaints though. There is one storyline that is not completed to my satisfaction. It’s minor and is left hanging very early on, but I kept hoping it would get picked back up. It isn’t a big issue as virtually all other aspects of the book are well wrapped up, which leads me to my second complaint. The ending very tidy, simplistic, and ‘standard’ for this genre. I understand this is the result of it being a contemporary drama, but I would have liked a couple of things to be different—if for no other reason than to be different. However, the predictability of the present day story is somewhat mitigated by the surprising conclusion of the backstory.
Overall I’m pleased with A Thousand Sleepless Nights. Even though it is outside my preferred genre, Mike does a very nice job of incorporating suspense and intrigue for fans of his alter ego. I’ll definitely be picking up his next one.