Hattie Kauffman spent years in the public eye. As an Emmy Award winning journalist and newscaster, she was invited into our living room on a regular basis. To many, she is best known as the first Native American to file a news report on a national evening broadcast. But all of that is incidental to Kauffman’s book, Falling into Place: A Memoir of Overcoming, which above all things, tells a familiar but exceptional story of prevailing over circumstance.
Kauffman’s story begins with the sudden crumbling of her 17-year marriage. And on this note, it is tempting to assume that the focus will be on the challenges of divorce. But then Falling takes a sharp left-hand turn and, through a series of well-placed episodes, takes the reader back to her childhood, growing up in the Pacific Northwest. Kauffman recounts the time – split between the Nez Perce reservation and Seattle, WA – as she and her siblings struggle to survive in the absence of her alcoholic parents. These passages are gripping and extraordinary.
It is notable that, considering her experience, Kauffman does not take this opportunity to launch a pity party or to take a self-righteous stand. Instead, her tone is gentle, matter-of-fact, and gracious. She is generous both to her family and to her youthful self. It’s a refreshing approach that allows the reader to make their own decisions about the motivations and character of the individuals encountered.
There are only a couple of minor criticisms. First, there are a few people in her story – who one could argue are pivotal to her journey – that are treated as almost incidental, like shadows in the background. Also, the initial momentum that compels us to keep turning pages fizzles a bit in the latter half. The narrative becomes meandering before refocusing for the conclusion. Neither of these comments is significant.
There may be some who pick up Falling Into Place looking for a story of glorious retribution or day of reckoning – people who have experienced a hurt similar to Kauffman’s divorce and want to experience some catharsis. Without giving away the conclusion, these folks may come away frustrated. As the title suggests, Kauffman’s story is about overcoming, and she ties up her memoir in a most appropriate manner – even if, for some, it lacks bite.
Regardless, by the time you turn the final page of her memoir, Hattie Kauffman has become a dear friend – like a member of your own small group that meets on Wednesday nights. You’ve shared in her story, celebrated in her ability to overcome, and are inspired by both her courage and her willingness to submit to God’s will even if it is not her own. Falling Into Place is a beautifully written, stirring work and should be on your list to pick up for your next visit to the book store.
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