The author of the memoir The Lost Night returns with a debut novel that charts one couple's fostering of a young girl whose past traumas make her prone to unpredictable mood swings and tantrums that challenge the couple's bond and their resolve to adopt.
With breathtaking brevity, Rachel Howard’s debut novel, The Risk of Us, illuminates the joys, challenges, fears and frustrations of adopting a foster child. And while she delves into the minutiae of 'the system' and the differences of opinion about parenting styles, her deceptively thin volume is about much more than plunging into parenthood. Howard masterfully illuminates how parenthood manages to bend even the most solid of marriages and expose insecurities about past relationships, including those from childhood ... Howard’s writing has a unique rhythm that feels choppy, even disjointed at first, but as the reader adjusts, her phrasing and word choices make each page sing. Not a single word is wasted here. There’s no bloat. Her writing is spare and elegant, yet it beautifully conveys intensity and emotional depth ... a simply gorgeous story.
...powerful ... she brings her memoirist’s gift (or curse, as the narrator calls it) of disarmingly frank revelation to The Risk of Us ... Howard never allows her narrator to resort to self-pity as she paints a clear picture of the beauty and difficulty of creating a family ... The confessional tone of the novel allows for a complex emotionality to form around the ambiguity of the narrator’s desire to become a mother ... Howard’s portrayal of motherhood in The Risk of Us is the antidote to the Instagram hashtag filled with photos of glowing stay-at-home moms posed with their immaculate children and spotless kitchens ... And yet, for all her gut-punching honesty, the narrator remains essentially hopeful. This hope — in the profound power of unconditional love — helps her navigate the novel’s central conflict: will the couple finalize the adoption or not? The taut exploration of this inconceivable choice makes The Risk of Us utterly compelling.
This new book feels a lot like memoir...(especially knowing that Howard and her husband have adopted a child). But who cares what genre it’s classified in? The real-life influence gives the writing a sense of urgency, and it tells a great story with an important message, gathering enormous tension from the question of whether these lovingly rendered, well-intentioned people will manage to hang together as the family they’d like to be ... The writing is always clear, so the reader is always well grounded in time and space ... Howard finds an ending that is deeply moving and resonant. It’s a triumph of a book that captures an essential truth not just about how it feels to foster an already formed human being, but about the fragile, shape-shifting quality of any family.