The Good Divide

Kali VanBaale. MG Press (Ingram, dist.), $15 (202p) ISBN 978-1-944850-00-5
Set in the fictional town of Chickering in rural southern Wisc., VanBaale’s second novel is a devastating story of dreams deferred, loves lost, and souls scarred. Jean Gillman was 13 years old when her mother died, leaving her with a struggling hog-farming father who would relocate every few years. Soon after the Gillmans move to Chickering, Jean meets the Krenshaw brothers, whose family has owned a dairy farm for generations. Jean eventually marries the older Krenshaw boy, Jim, and they live in one of two farmhouses on the Krenshaw property with their three sons. Jim’s younger brother, good-natured bachelor Tommy, occupies the other house. When Tommy marries city slicker Liz from Madison, Jean knows something’s not quite right. She keeps her suspicions to herself, but they ultimately force her to revisit a personal secret she’s kept for a decade. VanBaale (The Space Between) grew up on an Iowa dairy farm, a fact reflected in her attention to the nitty-gritty details of the Krenshaws’ daily life. By alternating the narrative among the early 1950s, when Jean moved to Chickering; the mid-1960s, during her marriage to Jim; and the late 1980s, when she’s thrust into a midlife she never imagined, VanBaale presents a vivid portrait of one woman’s lifelong struggle to find peace with what she has rather than what she desires. Fiction doesn’t get more real than this. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/11/2016
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