Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Colleen Hoover has the habit of taking her readers along to explore some of the more difficult-yet-meaningful aspects of human existence, as she does once again in Reminders of Him. The story follows Kenna Rowan, a young mother having just served a five-year prison sentence, coming back home in an attempt to reconnect with her four-year-old daughter, despite everyone intent on shutting her out.
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Colleen Hoover Returns the Exile back Home
Assuming most of you haven’t had the pleasure of serving a prison sentence, I think it would be fair to say our idea of what the experience is like largely covers the surface level. As it turns out, one of the more difficult parts of serving a prison sentence is the ensuing reintegration into society, as you’ll see is the case for Kenna Rowan in our Reminders of Him book review, a novel written by Colleen Hoover.
To give you a summary of Reminders of Him, Kenna Rowan committed a tragic mistake five years ago, which resulted in the death of her husband Scott. She has been held accountable for it, more than she deserved, some might say. After serving her time in prison, she is intent on returning back home to reconnect with her four-year-old daughter she never even had the chance to meet. She returns to her small town, but unfortunately for her, everyone remembers her a little too well.
Virtually every single person she had never known is intent on shutting her out and marking her as the local pariah, to say nothing of the people in charge of raising her daughter. No matter what she does, no matter how hard she tries to work to prove herself to everyone, it all seems to no avail, the tragedy of the past hanging like a bright sign around her neck.
Nevertheless, with little else to fight for her in her life, Kenna enters into a custody battle as a last-ditch effort to become the mother she was meant to be. The task is too monumental for her to overcome on her lonesome, but she does find a friendly face in Ledger Ward, the local bar owner and the only person willing to give her a second chance.
Despite what the world seems to think of Kenna, Ledger finds himself attracted to her, and against all odds a romance begins to blossom between the two. However, as they are drawn closer the risk of discovery only grows stronger, a tangible threat to Ledger’s own reputation and the success of his business. Ultimately, Kenna is forced to find a way of moving forward, of finding true absolution from her past in hopes of having some sort of future.
We’re all just a bunch of sad people doing what we have to do to make it until tomorrow.― Colleen Hoover, Reminders of Him
About Social Cruelty in Reminders of Him
So what is Reminders of Him about? There are certainly plenty of aspects to this novel which deserve to be discussed in great depth, but with our time here being fairly limited (not to mention, valuable), I’d like to focus my attention first on the one aspect which, in my opinion, stood out from the rest. As you might have guessed based on the title of this section, it revolves around the cruelty Kenna is made to endure at the hands of others.
To begin with, Colleen Hoover doesn’t portray anyone as an outright good or bad person. On the contrary, all the characters in Reminders of Him have a realistic depth to them, their actions motivated by a whole lot more than mere hatred of our protagonist. In other words, the author convinced me that if I was to wear the shoes of the people shunning Kenna, I can’t say with great confidence I would act any differently.
This is perhaps what makes the cruelty endured by the main character hit so close to home: from a certain perspective, it feels justified. The pain she has caused is quite real, and even though it was an accident, the scars she gave to others are bound to last forever. As much as we want her to move forward and find happiness, we understand why it can’t happen just like that (and perhaps even agree with it).
In my opinion, Colleen Hoover did a fantastic job at conveying just how deeply the social ostracism experienced by Kenna affects her internally, how it saps away at her being, even going as far as directing the course of her life and the goals she aspires to, which become decreasingly lofty. I could often feel her guilt and shame almost as if they were my own, and especially her pain from being unwanted by nearly all.
In my opinion, Reminders of Him can indeed serve as a rather interesting character study in regards to just how damaging it can be for a person to be totally rejected by their entourage, to be made into a leper none want anything to do with, even if it’s justified. It showcases a certain type of cruelty we don’t see every day, but one which, in my opinion at least, is one of the most insidious types of torture human beings are capable of.
Now that I’ve forgiven myself, the reminders of him only make me smile.― Colleen Hoover, Reminders of Him
The Immense Price of Forgiveness
Kenna does suffer quite a bit throughout the book, this much is true, but don’t let the previous section fool you into thinking Reminders of Him is simply a chronicle of a woman’s endless chagrin. On the other end of her many trials and tribulations there are a few rays of hope for a better tomorrow, or perhaps more importantly, hope for forgiveness.
Scott’s parents are holding Kenna responsible for his death despite it being an accident, and are intent on raising the daughter on their own without giving the mother a chance to fulfill her role. No matter how hard we see Kenna trying, it looks as if she’s beating her head against a concrete wall, and would be fairly depressing if not for the woman’s determination to at least see her own daughter.
This isn’t the type of story where the protagonist proves everyone and everything wrong, riding off with their loved ones into the sunset to live happily-ever-after. Thankfully, Colleen Hoover takes a very grounded approach to the progression of the relation between Kenna and Scott’s parents, showing that while some bridges can be rebuilt, others are indeed lost forever.
There is definitely a bittersweet taste to the way Kenna’s life unfolds, doggedly obsessed with a seemingly-doomed search for a forgiveness she might never even achieve. And even then, there is the tacit understanding that achieving her goals won’t change the past in any way, and perhaps most importantly, it won’t allow her to forgive herself.
I can hardly say I’ve read a book this year which made me feel so many emotions for a protagonist, some of them conflicting, but all of them well-justified and developed. From judging her for her sins to suffering along with her for the pain of her losses, we get the opportunity to feel just about everything for Kenna, making her one of the more lifelike characters I’ve ever had the pleasure encountering.
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The Final Verdict
To cap off this Reminders of Him review, Colleen Hoover has written a deeply-touching and thought-provoking work of literature and fiction, one poignantly exploring the subject of being a social pariah in search of forgiveness. Kenna Rowan is one of the more memorable protagonists I’ve had the pleasure of meeting this year, and her arduous road bears much fruit for thought.
If you’re not afraid of literature which falls more on the heavy and serious side and are interested in reading a story capable of making you think and feel in equal measures, then I strongly suggest you take a closer look at this book and all it has offer.
Colleen Hoover is an American author primarily known for her young adult and romance novels, though she has also dabbled in other genres. Her 2016 novel It Ends with Us is arguably her best-known work to date, achieving the rank of number one on The New York Times best sellers list. Some of her other acclaimed works include All your Perfects, Verity and It Starts with Us.