"The Rest of Her Life"

By: Laura Moriarty

“One second really can change your life forever. In her deftly dramatic family drama . . . Moriarty paints a solid picture of a family in crisis trying to survive the unthinkable.” —USA Today

“The Rest of Her Life” by Laura Moriarty is a powerful story that illustrates the relationships between a mother and her daughter, family, and friends. Written in 2007, the story is set in present day, in the small town of Danby, Kansas and is told from mother of two, Leigh Churchill’s, point of view. In the novel, the Churchill family is currently undergoing a very serious and emotional period of their life. Their eldest child, and only daughter, Kara, has just recently ran a stop sign and hit a young girl Bethany, resulting in Bethany’s death.

"Moriarty's honest novel about an ordinary family whose life changes in one extraordinary moment resonates like an emotional tuning fork." - Jodi Picoult.

From the start of the novel we can see a rocky and unhealthy relationship between Kara and her mother. At first glance we assume their relationship is normal for any 18 year old girl and her mother; however, as the story progresses and the Churchill family undergoes many consequences and ramifications that come along with the horrible accident, our first impressions of Leigh begin to change. After first hearing news of the tragedy, Leigh’s reaction is almost as if she is feeling left out and excluded. Her husband Gary had been the one to retrieve Kara from the scene, allowing him to acquire all of the details pertaining to the crash, as well as the opportunity to be the one Kara turns to for comfort. Leigh believes, in her mind, that she is being a concerned and loving mother, unlike her own mother use to be. However, in reality, both Gary and her best friend, Eva, see her as someone who is not concerned for her child's own well being and is displaying selfish antics.

Frequently, as readers continue to read the novel, we experience flashbacks to Leigh’s childhood and the relationship she contained with her mother. Leigh and her mother have a very unorthodox relationship, which soon lead to Leigh’s mother abandoning her when she was 15 years old. When we fast forward back to present day, Leigh still contains a great deal of resentment and anger towards her mother. She vows to herself that she will never grow up to be like her; however, as time goes on, she begins to display more and more qualities similar to that of her mother. Leigh is not oblivious and in denial about the unhealthy and abnormal relationship she has with her daughter. In fact, after being denied comfort from her daughter, Kara, Leigh comments “you [her] could permanently alienate your child by simply laughing at her at the wrong time.” This alienation and discomfort only heightens as the story progresses. This is mainly due to Leigh’s jealously of Gary and Kara’s relationship and her bitterness and anger towards her own mother.
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“A mother-daughter relationship can be a tenuous walk on a tightrope of power and control . . . and the delicate balance and love shared by a mother and daughter is the focus of . . . [this] contemplative book that reminds us how little control we really have in our lives.” —The Missourian

As the story unfolds, we as readers wish to believe that Leigh is a caring, loving, and nurturing mother to both her family and Kara during this horrible and tragic time in their lives. We long to see her acts as selfless, comforting, and only wishing to have the best interest at heart for Kara and her family. Unfortunately, however, this is not what is portrayed. Although, Leigh is not classified as a “horrible” mother, she is seen as someone who allows her own animosity and bitterness for her own mother hinder her relationship with her family. Such a tragic and calamitous event occurs in the start of the novel that sets such an ominous tone for the plot. Such a catastrophic occurrence would be extremely painful for anyone to endure, but especially painful for a parent. This extreme pain that is felt throughout the novel forces our hearts to go out to Leigh and the Churchill family. It is such an emotional and strenuous process for anyone to go through. However, the way Leigh handled this terrible situation is not one that would be classified as ideal and fitting.

"Powerful, original, and utterly absorbing,

Moriarty's novel will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned." - Booklist.

Is This A True Story?

Many authors are typically asked if their novels are based off of their real life. This is a common question for Laura Moriarty and her novel “The Rest of Her Life.” Even though the two have a similar setting and up brining in Kansaa, Moriarty claims that she wrote the book based off of the many accident reports she would read about in the paper. Moriarty shares that “whenever I [Moriarty] read about accidents like this, I of course have sympathy for the victim and the victim's family; but I also feel terrible - and maybe even more sympathy - for the driver.” She wanted to share the tragedy that these individuals and their loved ones go through and put herself in their shoes. The shoes of those who make one bad, life altering mistake that would stay with the for the rest of their life.

“We get distracted. We're full of good intentions, but we don't see what's right in front of us. So after you make the mistake, you can promise to be more attentive, more careful. But you also have to consider the harm you've already done.” -Moriarty

Meet Laura Moriarty

Laura Moriarty Talks The Rest Of Her Life