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Small Hours


Small Hours

SMALL HOURS is a thoughtful and provocative contemporary-themed novel that readers will enjoy. As the story unfolds, readers may also experience a degree of discomfort as they meet characters who easily could be their friends, neighbors or themselves. With a simple and straightforward style, Jennifer Kitses’ debut novel is told over the course of one day and focuses on Helen and Tom, a struggling young couple who leaves New York City for a small community in an attempt to simplify their lives. But as the book makes clear, this admirable goal is not easily accomplished.

After many years of unsuccessfully attempting to start a family, and at the point when they thought children were no longer a possibility, Helen becomes pregnant. She and Tom are soon the parents of twin girls. The two-career family now finds life in the city to be difficult, so they decide to move to the suburbs and make career modifications that will allow Helen to be a stay-at-home mom with a reduced workload and still be her daughters’ primary caretaker. But as the proverb reminds us, “Man plans and God laughs.” Tom and Helen soon find themselves victims of the economic downturn that has affected many in our nation.

"...a thoughtful and provocative contemporary-themed novel that readers will enjoy.... After reading a debut novel, you are either delighted or disappointed. I think SMALL HOURS will delight you."

The book offers flashbacks into certain events in the couple’s lives that have contributed to their present anxiety-filled day. Tom’s day begins with a wonderful fatherly mission to take his daughters for a dawn trip to the park for a few moments of early-morning father-daughter time. But the joy is quickly gone as a few minor delays cause Tom to worry if he will be able to make his commuter train to the city on time. He cannot be late to his job at a news wire service because his employment status is already on thin ice.

Helen’s difficulty comes from maintaining a high-wire act familiar to many. In addition to the twins, she must take care of a boss who has no concept whatsoever of her working life at home. She struggles through the day to complete projects while balancing her daughters’ day with her job duties, only to be told over and over that her work assignments have been modified or sometimes even completely changed. Along the way, there are some non-work issues, an argument with teenage boys that escalates into a major conflict, and a heart attack suffered by a neighbor who has volunteered to watch the girls while Helen works.

Readers following the issues that Tom and Helen are confronting will certainly recognize and identify with their dilemmas. Kitses portrays the family with a universality of experience that is easily understood. Reading about Tom and Helen may be difficult because it is impossible for readers not to see themselves in some of their situations.

I came across an interview with Kitses and learned that the book is partially biographical as she began writing it when she worked at home with her three-year-old twin daughters. Perhaps that is why the story seems so real and the emotions and experiences of Tom and Helen so genuine. After reading a debut novel, you are either delighted or disappointed. I think SMALL HOURS will delight you.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on June 30, 2017

Small Hours
by Jennifer Kitses

  • Publication Date: June 13, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1455598526
  • ISBN-13: 9781455598526