Reminders of Him: A Novel by Colleen Hoover is a book that will stick with me for the rest of my life. It follows Kenna Rowan, a broken woman who just got released from prison and is looking for a reason to live again. Five years earlier, she had crashed her car while drunk and high and left her boyfriend for dead in the passenger seat. She pled guilty for manslaughter, but not long after beginning her sentence she found out she was pregnant. Now that she’s free, the only thing keeping her going is the hope of finally holding her daughter for the first time, but the people who stepped up to become her guardians are none other than the parents of the man she killed.
Based on that story, do you pity Kenna? Do you wish you could reach out to those parents and convince them that she deserves a second chance? I definitely didn’t. I loathed Kenna at the beginning of this book. I was offended at her arrogance, to think that her desire to see her child was more important than the health and happiness of that couple and their daughter. I read about how miserable she was, and how desperately she was trying to find meaning in her life, and I thought “You reap what you sow”. For the first half of the book I judged Kenna so harshly, picking away at her every decision, especially the ways she found joy.
Yet, even feeling such contempt for the main character, something kept me reading. Something tugged at me, told me that there had to be more to the story than this. Why was the voice of the story so sympathetic towards Kenna when I held none for her? I got to know her more with each chapter, and the more I learned the more I softened toward her. She started asking herself the same questions I was asking about her motives being selfish. She was so depressed, and I wanted to shout at her to do something about it, and then I realized that’s what she’s been doing the whole time. She’d been doing the work while I, and pretty much every other character in the book, despised her.
As I learned more about Kenna’s story, I had my contempt replaced with empathy. I had my hatred turned to shame. I had written off an entire person, an entire human being worthy of love and respect, as worth no more than whatever she had coming to her. And on what grounds? Because of some vague details about a single mistake?
Reminders of Him made me realize how out of practice my empathy had gotten. How often have I written off actual people like that? How many times have I ignored someone’s desperation because I could pinpoint one reason they might deserve it?
This book expertly puts you in the shoes of the antagonist for the entirety of the story. You hate Kenna with them, and you learn to forgive her with them. I’d never read a story like that, and I found it to be a fantastic read. If you want to give your empathy a workout, I’d highly recommend Reminders of Him.