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The Kindness of Strangers

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A young widow raising two boys, Sarah Laden is struggling to keep her family together. But when a shocking revelation rips apart the family of her closest friend, Sarah finds herself welcoming yet another troubled young boy into her already tumultuous life. Jordan, a quiet, reclusive elementary school classmate of Sarah's son Danny, has survived a terrible ordeal. By agreeing to become Jordan's foster mother, Sarah will be forced to question the things she has long believed. And as the delicate threads that bind their family begin to unravel, all the Ladens will have to face difficult truths about themselves and one another—and discover the power of love necessary to forgive and to heal.

393 pages, Paperback

First published January 31, 2006

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About the author

Katrina Kittle

13 books497 followers
Hello! Welcome to my GoodReads profile, fellow book lover. I've made it a New Year's resolution to keep better track of my reading this year. My profile makes it look like I never, ever read, which is sooooo far from the truth. I'm just terrible at tracking, but I resolve to be better! People have teased me that my reviews are all so high that I don't seem very critical (like a teacher who gives out all A's). Let me explain: First of all, life is too short to finish a book I don't love, and I'd never, ever review a book I hadn't finished. Secondly, I feel much more comfortable recommending works I admire than I do criticizing something I didn't. There. Just so ya know! :-)

I'm the author of five novels, four for adults and one for tweens. I hope you'll check them out. You can also follow me on Instagram or my Facebook author page.

Happy Reading!

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5 stars
4,414 (32%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,665 reviews
Profile Image for Crumb.
189 reviews526 followers
February 11, 2019
Jordan, aged beyond his mere eleven years, cannot understand why this is happening to him. He is a child, unwilling and unable to comprehend his situation. For him, there is no escape.

Sarah Laden knows grief. She feels it everyday her husband doesn't come home. She feels it deep within her bones. If her husband was still living, perhaps he would never have come into their lives. There may never have been that gaping hole. That cavernous void.

This book was torturous in moments, yet ultimately heartwarming. There is no question that this world is full of evil. We see it in the shootings that seem to be happening on an alarmingly regular basis. We see it in the face of pedophiles. We see it in the face of mothers who kill their children. However, there is also tremendous good. I've never been so taken with a character, than I had with Sarah. Her nurturing and kind spirit toward Jordan ignited my soul.

While this was a difficult book to read at times, I'm not at all sorry that I did. Sometimes the best stories make us uncomfortable, but ultimately enable us to grow as readers and as humans. This was one of the special ones.

Courage in the face of unspeakable cruelty. Courage to do the right thing when the right thing is not always clear. Courage to do the one thing that no one else would do.

A novel filled to the brim with hope..

Trigger Warning: Sexual abuse toward minors
Profile Image for Deanna .
664 reviews12.4k followers
June 6, 2016
I read this book about 8 years ago and it's one of those books that has stayed with me ever since. It will probably always be one of my favorite books. Even though it is also one of the most difficult books I have ever read. It's the book that comes to mind whenever someone asks for a recommendation. I had originally meant to write a review but somehow it slipped my mind.

The novel was on my mind again as I just recently recommended it to someone.

This book introduced me to author Katrina Kittle and I've since read every novel she has written. She is one of my favorite authors and I'm always looking forward to her next book.

The Kindness of Strangers deals with the topic of Child Abuse, specifically child sexual abuse. However this novel is about much more. Although the subject is extremely difficult to read about, the author shows truly how the kindness, love and compassion of ordinary people can help with healing and forgiveness.

Sarah Laden is a widow and lives with her two sons, Danny and Nate. She has her own catering business which is doing extremely well. She is very close with best friend, Courtney who helped her survive in the painful days after the death of Sarah's husband. Courtney's son Jordan is best friends with Sarah's son Danny. However, the day comes when Sarah realizes she never truly knew her best friend at all.

This book took me a little while to read. This is only because at times I felt so overcome with emotion that I had to take a break. However, this book had me in it's grips so it wasn't long before I picked it up again. Even if I wasn't reading the book I was thinking about it. I went through so many different emotions while reading. Sometimes it was sadness and other times it was almost a blinding fury at the heinous characters and their actions. However, there was also times that I was so heart-warmed by the love and understanding that was shown by some of the other characters. The characters were so well written and vivid to me. I felt like I knew them personally. The rotating points of view were easy to follow and I liked hearing the different perspectives.

Katrina Kittle writes about such a painful topic realistically and with sensitivity. There are many statistics in the book but they do not interfere with the storyline. The Kindness of Strangers is a compelling novel of survival and the healing power of love.

Highly recommended!!!

Profile Image for Jaime.
69 reviews37 followers
July 9, 2007
You know you're reading a great book when you start thinking about its characters and their story in your free time. This book completely consumed my thoughts. Although the subject matter may turn some readers off--the story deals with incest and child pornography--the author handles it with an immense amount of compassion and poise. I felt so attached to the characters in this novel, and Kittle (a middle school English teacher!) didn't hold back; there were constant shocks and twists in the plot. Overall, she handled this very delicate subject matter well and did an effective job illustrating that although an incident like this can tear one family apart, it can certainly pull another closer together. This book has earned a spot at the very top of my goodreads list.
Profile Image for joyce g.
300 reviews40 followers
March 3, 2017
It's hard to review a book highly which depicts such horrific subject matter. That being said, this book will be one that will remain with me. Child abuse to the deepest degree. A difficult subject but yes I am glad I read it. Very well written.
February 7, 2017
5 stars! Wow - this was an intense, highly-emotional and uncomfortable book. I don't think it's possible for me to give this book the review it deserves. I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked it up. Kudos to the author, Katrina Kittle, for writing an extremely powerful book about such a devastating and disturbing topic - child sexual abuse. Pedophiles are expert manipulators who thrive on finding vulnerable children and they often lead completely "normal" lives. What an eye-opener! I am forever changed after reading this. I was completely glued to the pages of this story even though it was such a dark topic and was extremely difficult to read at times.

As a mother, this book makes me TERRIFIED to let my children out of my sight. It really makes me question who I would trust to watch my children. It's sad to say but people can be very deceiving and manipulative in this chaotic world. This story shows you just how easily this devastation could happen in any neighbourhood. Parents REALLY need to be aware! A big outtake from this book for me is to always have an open line of communication with your children, no matter how uncomfortable the discussions may be. Shying away from uncomfortable topics with your children can lead to secrets and embarrassment and sexual predators thrive on finding families that lack this open and encouraging environment.

The author told this story from multiple perspectives, some directly affected by the sexual abuse and others non-directly affected by it. All of the characters were extremely well-developed - I felt like I was inside their mind, feeling their feelings and thinking their thoughts. I was so absorbed in the story that I actually found myself holding my breath on pages where I couldn't read fast enough to find out what would happen next. I can't imagine the amount of research that would have went into writing this book. My heart broke OVER AND OVER AGAIN for the main victim, eleven year-old Jordan. I wanted to wrap my arms around him and protect him from his crazy, uncontrollable world, though I knew a warm embrace would be the last thing on earth that would ever comfort him. I loved Nate and Danny, brothers from Jordan's school, who got caught up in the middle of exposing the entire devastating situation. Sarah, Nate and Danny's mom, was my hero - the shining light throughout this story. She had such strength, kindness and determination to sort through and mend the situation to the best of her ability while mourning not only the loss of her husband, but the loss of her supposed best friend.

The predators in this book are the Barbie and Ken "perfect couple next door" with the big, beautiful house and all the luxuries anyone could wish for. They seem to have everything going for them and all the money to go along with it. They have an introvert son who goes to the local school. They volunteer as coaches, shuttle drivers, school trip leaders, etc. Everyone in the community knows them and loves them. Being friends with them is an honour. They absolutely LOVE children and have a backyard oasis that has the local kids wishing to be invited over. Sounds like a great place to bring your children, right? WRONG - VERY WRONG!!!!!!! I cannot even begin to touch on the details of the sexual abuse that went on in this book as it is so extremely upsetting and disturbing. This book is not for everyone. It is EXTREMELY unsettling, however, it is so well-written that it completely engulfs you into the devastating storyline making you hang on every single word. Obviously, this is not a feel-good book, but I highly recommend it for the well-written story and life lesson to parents. This is the first book I have read by Katrina Kittle and it certainly won't be my last!
Profile Image for Brooke.
276 reviews137 followers
February 28, 2017
This book is a perfect example of why I love my GR buddies- without them I never would have had this on my radar; I never would have known this existed, because let's be honest: that cover is easy to overlook. Don't let the cute cover fool you- this is emotionally draining. But it's worth it.

Before I go any further, just know that you NEED to read this. It is heartbreaking. It is raw. It is real, with no pieces of truth extracted. Even if you only read to escape life's woes, please consider giving this a chance. This is a story that needs to be told & although it is told over & over, it is unlike Kittle's creation. This doesn't even feel like you're reading a fictitious novel, just a parent's worst nightmare unfolding right before your eyes.

Okay now that I'm done gushing! The heart of KINDNESS is Sarah, a sweet woman with the best of intentions, who is trying to heal after losing her husband. She is raising her sons, Nate & Danny, & finds friendship in Courtney, an obstetrician. Sarah's world crashes upside down when it is revealed Jordan, Courtney's son, has been molested. In fact, his perpetrators are his very own parents. (This novel deals not with finding out who did it, but how each person connected to their family deals with the news.) Jordan must find some way to heal. Nate & Danny figure out their own ways for helping Jordan & themselves. And Sarah is left wondering just how much she knew about her friend.

I won't go into too much more detail about the plot. This book is very character driven & is at a slower pace but takes a very intimate look into child sexual abuse & not only the damage it has caused Jordan but each MC, as well as insight into the entire town talks. (Because what town doesn't thrive off gossip?!) The conversations that go down from the ignorant people who have never walked into a survivor's shoes crucifying Jordan for not telling sooner to not understanding that sex is (meant) to be used for love, not punishment. To see each character's pain bleeding on every page is fucking painful, but Kittle didn't take the easy way out. She didn't water things down when it got too tough & from an own survivor's standpoint she did an amazing job painting an accurate picture of how to live then vs now. I felt like she really did justice to making voices heard & for that I am forever grateful.

There is not a single character who is wasted here. Each one is crucial to the layout of the story & no time is wasted filling the audience in on unnecessary rambling. There are a couple statistics in here but it doesn't shove anything down your throat. This is purely just emotions running high & an innocent boy finding a new way to survive. From the first sentence to the very last, it keeps a steady pace & makes you desperate to keep your eyes glued to the page, desperate to find out what's gonna happen to Sarah & her family. Who will Jordan become? Kittle makes vivid descriptions to place clear images in your mind but it's never too much too take attention away. Even the cop & social worker play a likeable role in this. (Unreal!)

As stated, there are tons of books that deal with abuse, but I've had a difficult time finding ones that deal with the emotions & confusion & the "where the hell do I go from here?". A lot of these books showcase therapy sessions, trials, etc. Been there, done that. Kittle doesn't make this a priority which I so appreciate. The ending is satisfying & something I can smile at. This is really just a wonderful book all the way around, regardless of the subject matter. It's a difficult topic to swallow, but it's even harder for someone like Jordan trying to scrape their way out.

I wish I read this when it was released, not ten years later. Ten years ago I didn't think I would live to see this day. Ten years ago I was so engrossed in pain I didn't believe in futures. So in a way I am glad I'm reading this a decade later, seeing how far I have come. Despite how painful this book is, it is a reminder that things DO get better. And that is worth all the marbles to me.

These characters & this story will stay with me forever, because after all, you can never forget those who have hurt you.
But you can forgive.
Profile Image for Lisa.
153 reviews4 followers
November 14, 2008
I'm still feeling conflicted over this book--it was a really hard subject matter (pedophiles, child sex abuse) and was full of terrible language in large quantities, but it was such an interesting look at a struggling family who worked through some really tough challenges and was even able to embrace another child to help him work through his trials. I loved the way the author captured the emotions of the characters--the story was told through three rotating points of view--and I was so intrigued that I couldn't put it down. I appreciated the view that families can work through hard things and that despite horrible experiences, human beings are resilient and can overcome difficulties. It is not a book to be taken lightly though, there are quite a few graphic descriptions of the abuse that took place. I can't give it a hearty recommendation, because I know a lot of people would be very troubled by the subject matter, and I still haven't decided if I am better off for having read it (certainly more aware of adults and their interactions with kids) or not.
Profile Image for Julia.
292 reviews7 followers
February 13, 2008
Although the back of the book attempts to summarize without hinting at content, my friend Cecily actually recommended this to me specifically because it was about childhood sexual abuse. If that is something you prefer not to spend free time thinking about, then don't read this. After working at a sexual assault crisis hotline for 3+ years, however, I'm sort of inclined to think that because silence surrounding child victims is almost as significant a form of oppression as the abuse itself, that we'd all do well to make ourselves feel nauseated by this reality sometimes (and truly--you will feel ill). In that respect, this is a great book. Kittle has obviously done boatloads of research, and the perps in this book are not old men driving big white vans; they are, like real pedophiles, the people you would least expect, and when the horror is revealed, everyone is ready to be angry, but no one is ready to acknowledge that for every child whose story is told, countless others are silent. Her treatment of how one small community is affected by the abuse is spot-on, and she is tremendously sensitive to all the nuanced types of havoc this can wreak, especially on children not directly involved, but still having to comprehend the abuse. As a novel, it's not the best, simply good. So, expect a quick read--there is a happy ending, and I found myself racing towards it desperately (the whole read took probably 6 hours). And I do applaud Kittle for creating a work of fiction that does some consciousness-raising to boot.
Profile Image for Antonio.
245 reviews1 follower
February 27, 2016
When you hear about parental child abuse in the newspaper or on the tv it's normally about the court proceedings or the accused and very rarely any information about what happens to the abused child.
This heartbreaking novel takes us on the same journey as the child who finds when his parents are arrested he cannot look after himself so is hospitalised and under the care of psychologists and social workers. He is alone,frightened and bleeding, All his friends and neighbors know what has happened to him. but after all that he still loves his mother. This story is about how a totally messed up kid can with the help and understanding of a family of strangers cope with what has happened to him .
Profile Image for Cindy.
183 reviews25 followers
August 6, 2018
This is an incredible story of survival...of surviving the unimaginable. It is a distressing read, and yet, the message of love and resiliency makes it a worthwhile. Kittle's writing is moving. I loved how she rotated the point of view of each character in alternating chapters, so that I knew each one intimately.
I have gone back and forth between rating it 4 or 5 stars, and have decided that it deserves 5 because of the beautiful story telling, even though the subject matter of Jordan's life is most disturbing. Yet, the kindness and love of Sarah and her family reached out and gave me hope, which is what life is really all about.
This book will not be for everyone. It is a heartbreaking story, but I had a hard time putting it down.
It will be even harder to forget.
Profile Image for PeachyTO.
230 reviews36 followers
August 6, 2021
Katrina Kittle has attempted to address a subject that very few authors would even consider writing about, let alone be able to accomplish in a novel with such grace and empathy as The Kindness of Strangers.

You don't have to have been a victim of incest to understand and experience the terror, shame and confusion that young Jordan is subject to in this eerily accurate account of familial sexual abuse. As the author gives us access to the thoughts and feelings of three main characters and their different reactions to the plot via rotating viewpoints, we get a full circle view of the goings on in this devastating story, and see how so many are affected by its brutality.

I would only recommend this novel to those who have thick skin, as the content is harsh and reprehensible. That being said, child pornography and paedophilia are a tragic reality, and the only way to try to and catch more predators is to educate society on its ugly face. The Kindness of Strangers is about resilience, righteousness and redemption, and for those that can handle its reality, should not be missed.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
Author 23 books54 followers
September 25, 2007
THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS by Katrina Kittle / William Morrow Press / 390pps / $24.95

When an elementary boy tries to kill himself, people look for reasons. What they usually find is horrendous.
Jordan is the quiet, skinny, pale boy who is best friends with the youngest of Sarah's two sons. Sarah is recently widowed and runs a catering business out of her home. She has catered "parties" for Jordan's parents on numerous occasions. She is close friends with Jordan's mother. When police investigate Jordan's reason for attempting to take his own life, the small town where they all live is thrown into a confusing denial. None more so than Sarah.
How could a child pornography ring have possibly been operated right under their noses? And by such respected, outgoing members of their community as Jordan's parents? Hindsight leaves everyone feeling nauseated, terrified and incredibly guilt-ridden. Nearly every child in the neighborhood has had contact of some sort with the Kendricks. Nearly every one of them were being groomed for future "parties." This is not a Stephen King novel. There is nothing sci-fi or fantasy-based. In near graphic detail, we are filtered into Jordan's life via his own suppressed memories and through the collected DVD's found in the police search. This is not a pretty picture.
His father skips town, his mother is thrown in jail, and Jordan has nowhere to go from the hospital so is foster-placed with Sarah. What evolves is a long, hard, tumultuous journey into trust and eventual love. With incredible insight, Kittle writes through the voices of Sarah, her son's Nate and Danny, and through Jordan with pure emotions and concise legalities. Revelations bring a family on the brink of their own destruction back into a tight, supportive unit that helps each other heal and move slowly, but surely, forward.
What started out as (I thought) a sappy story soon became an amazingly illuminating read that could easily serve as educational, were it actual nonfiction. In honesty, I could not put it down..even so much as taking it to lunch with my husband and reading it before the food arrived. Painful, poignant, promising....and, unfortunately, more than possible.
Kittle writes from Dayton where she also teaches middle school theater and English. This is her third novel.
Profile Image for Tracy Fenton.
923 reviews174 followers
September 1, 2016
This is not an easy book to review. It's also a difficult book to read due to the subject matter. Without giving away any spoilers the story revolves around incest, child abuse and paedophiles (which was surprise to me as I started it on an aeroplane journey so couldn't read the blurb before hand!). It's painful and uncomfortable to read especially the 11 year old boy, Jordan, chapters. However it is gripping and the author covers this horrific subject with sensitivity and compassion. Told from several family members points of view - The Kindness of Strangers will remain in your thoughts for a long time after finishing it.
Profile Image for Melodie.
589 reviews64 followers
December 5, 2019
Sarah Laden has her hands full raising her boys after the death of her husband. Two years later, she struggles to keep all her spinning plates in the air. Her oldest son Nate seems determined to make her life as difficult as possible. Being a teenager he chafes at the rules she sets down. And her younger son Danny, sweet and socially awkward, struggles daily with school and friendships.
When she comes to the aid of a friend's young son, she finds herself embroiled in the exposure of a child sex ring. Disbelief, horror,guilt are just some of the emotions she struggles to come to terms with as the legal case against her friend grows.
This was a tough book for me. Child abuse and animal abuse are subjects I avoid. Books such as these prey on my mind. I have difficulty processing how the innocents of our world are targets for such madness. The book was well done, giving many character's perspective on the crisis. And while the subject was so serious, there were moments of relief written in.
I recommend this book with caution because of the subject. Perseverance will be rewarded.
Profile Image for Shelleyrae at Book'd Out.
2,456 reviews513 followers
September 18, 2009
A must read if you can deal with the subject matter . An emotive,compelling tale of the horrors of abuse and how it affects not only the child but also the people it touches.
Despite the grim situation, it is incredibly well written with compassion yet without couching the horror in coy terms. It is honest which is sometimes difficult to read, it can make your heart hurt. This issue is so often exploited for shock value or tabloid fodder. There is no sensationalism in this story - but raw truth.
The characters that are able to share their unique perspective really draws out the complex reactions to abuse experienced in the wider community but without the characters losing their individual identities. Their emotions and motivations come across as genuine. They are ordinary people who have to cope with a tragic set of circumstances while still living their lives.
Dont write this off as fiction, it is very grounded in reality.
This book reminds you that this does happen, it is likely happening in your neighborhood and pretending it doesnt or ignorning it, is why it happens. While it may be hard to read about, it is even harder for children to live.

Profile Image for Tiffany.
416 reviews2 followers
May 29, 2009
I absolutely loved this book. It is without a doubt one of the most heartbreaking books I've ever read, but also the most heartwarming, in an alternating pattern that varies throughout the book. Dealing with the aftermath of horrible child abuse in a way that is honest and real, there is no sugarcoating of facts to be found here. Obviously, things aren't blatantly described, but the author has no problem discussing the issue. But, at the same time, this is not a story about child abuse, but rather a story about triumph, survival, and the love and support of a family.

Sarah Laden, a recent widow struggling to now raise two boys entirely on her own, has her world turned upside down when a shocking secret is discovered about her long-time friends, the Kendrick family. Faced with the possibility that she may not have really known them at all, and that the woman most responsible for her recovery after the death of her husband may have had a far darker motive for her actions than Sarah could have ever imagined, the already fragile balance that is her everyday existence now seems to be more difficult than ever before. And when the Laden family makes the decision to add another child to the family, the traumatized young Jordan Kendrick, things become even more complicated yet. What hope is there for this family to survive, and can they find the happiness together that seems to have been missing for far too long?

For anyone who has ever followed the news, you know that the most horrible crimes are often committed by the seemingly most unlikely people. Friends and neighbors are almost always heard to say after the truth is discovered that they "had no idea" and "it can't be true, they're such nice people". It was good to read a book that takes this real-life rule to heart. The 'bad guys' here aren't the creepy or strange people that everyone steers clear of. Rather, they're seemingly normal family people who volunteer at school events, participate in their community, and are seemingly good friends or acquaintances to many people, all of whom have no idea of the truth until the police get involved. This book will haunt you, educate you, and hopefully let you understand the deeper issues a bit better. Yes, there are times that you want to grab one of the characters and slap them out of their denial, until you think about how you would feel in their position. For better or worse, the emotions and reactions in this book are true to real life, as unfortunate as that can sometimes be.

Without any doubts, this book definitely warrants 5/5 stars. This is one for the keeper shelf.
Profile Image for Recynd.
236 reviews29 followers
October 29, 2007
Not bad, not bad...but not good, either. One does have to admire the author's guts in tackling such a touchy subject: incest/child pornography. Avoiding graphic details and gratuitous description, the author still manages to tell her story without it feeling like a cop-out. Unfortunately, "not being a cop-out" does not equal "a great read".

The best way I can describe the writing is "immature": Kittle has a ways to go before she's ripe. The characters are cookie-cutter and predictable, the dialogue's unnatural and clunky, and the whole book has a sort of preachy quality that I found distasteful.

Everything about the book was obvious; Kittle needs to learn to be a little more...subtle.

***NOTE: I just looked at the other reviews; after some thought, I have decided that THEY'RE WRONG!!!

Yes, the book's a page-turner. Yes, it's a horrifying and disturbing topic. But just because a book is interesting, DOESN'T MEAN IT'S WELL-WRITTEN! It's not crap, not by a long shot, but I'm sticking to my original assessment: it's not winning any Pulitzers anytime soon.
Profile Image for Kimberley.
54 reviews4 followers
February 25, 2010
I honestly don't know how to rate this book because I loved it so much yet disturbed all at the same time. I found myself not being able to put the book down but probably because I wanted to know what was going to happen to each of them. Of course it broke my heart as we know this really does exist every day. I think it was a GREAT approach for the author to show- yes, good things can come out of horrible situations.

I guess we need more Nate's in the world to convince us we have enough to give, Danny's to not hold a grudge and forgive and Sarah's to have patience and well, be the mom.

Each character had such a strong role and life for that matter. I was impressed with who they were and who they became. I actually had these crazy sensations under my skin when I read parts of the book. It's always so hard to hear or read a child struggling. It just doesn't seem fair.

I don't know that I would have picked this off the shelf on my own but I am glad I read it. The author did a great job not losing me.
Profile Image for Leila.
278 reviews
May 12, 2011
I really did not like this book, which I read for my Book Club about a year or so ago. The subject of the novel is the sexual abuse of a child--which, by the way, is not even hinted at on the book jacket (you only know that there is some vague "family problem"). The descriptions of this abuse were, I thought, overly detailed--almost lurid. I had the sense that the author wanted to write a story about a family with a real juicy skeleton in the closet, so she wracked her brain to find the most disturbing possible thing! Ugh--no thanks, you can creep out someone else. I'm not averse to reading about terrible things--many great pieces of literature deal with heart-breaking subjects, of course, but do so in a sensitive and moving way that leaves the reader richer for having experienced it. But in this case, I kept thinking, "Why did this novel even need to be written?" It wasn't sensitive or emotionally powerful; it was just chick lit-style writing with a plot centered on child abuse. Blech.
Profile Image for Eva-Marie.
1,672 reviews128 followers
August 26, 2008
This is an amazing book! I was totally enthralled the entire time. The characters- every single one- are so drawn out that you actually feel part of the story- that you know them. She deals with a very tough subject- child sexual abuse- but she touches every situation with great care. The way she has Danny, Nate, their mother, and Jordan going you'd swear she actually wrote down every little nuance from her own childhood and teenage years- she just does everything so well- totally believeable! I recommend this to anyone who loves great fiction!
Profile Image for Sheri.
1,206 reviews
September 1, 2018
So this is one of those books that deals with a gross topic...incest and pedophilia...and tries to come at it in a serious way. This is not a horror book, it is a "chicklit" kind of story about a family who finds out the worst possible news about their closest friends.

But it is not a very good book. The writing is clean a simple, but nothing special; the characters are not very believable (I have a 16 year old son and Nate did not ring true AT ALL) and there is no real suspense or intrigue. It is just kind of a bummer of a book that is written adequately.

And of course, I feel bad saying that though because it is about an important topic.
Profile Image for Crystal Craig.
250 reviews575 followers
November 9, 2021
Sometimes I find it hard to rate a book that deals with the hard subject matter. What is most terrible is the fact that such topics are a part of real life; pedophiles, child sex abuse are what some families deal with each and every day and often these crude acts go on for years. You never know what goes on behind closed doors. I’ve never been one to shy away from books that deal with such topics. It’s not that I enjoy reading about such things. It’s a book, a piece of fiction. If the author handles the subject matter in the right way – and Katrina Kittle has – victims may read the book and come forth telling their story. The more ‘creeps’ caught the better for children in abusive situations.

Okay back to the book. I thought The Kindness of Strangers was very well-written. The characters were complex and enjoyable. I love how Ms. Kittle was able to get into the minds of the younger characters in this book and bring them to life on paper. Jordan and Nate were well done. I’m really looking forward to Ms. Kittle’s next book.
Profile Image for Annie.
313 reviews50 followers
June 13, 2016
4.5 stars. Despite the excellent reviews, I was hesitant to read about the sexual abuse of a child. I have to say, though, that the author handled this so well that it was hard for me to put this one down. It really dealt with the aftermath of the abuse and the emotions it elicits from not only the victim of the abuse, but of those in the community, especially the close friends of the child and his abusers. I highly recommend this one.
Profile Image for Sarah.
277 reviews27 followers
June 2, 2014
I read this book in two days. While I will not write any spoilers, I will say that I got very caught up in the story of a difficult situation that has a child enter foster care and the impact of the child and situation on the family dynamic of the foster family. Katrina Kittle creates wonderful, fleshed out characters that could be your neighbors. Each chapter is told through the eyes of one of the main characters. This style works very here to progress the story and to explore the emotions, thoughts and reactions of the character. Kittle treats a very difficult issue with respect and honesty. She writes just enough detail so the reader can understand the situation but never in a way to sensationalize. I would highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Betsy.
743 reviews54 followers
March 5, 2009
Beautifully written, thought-provoking -- just all-around great. The author tackles a horrifying subject without making the reader feel prurient or voyeuristic, which I think is a major accomplishment.
Profile Image for Angie.
690 reviews24 followers
October 2, 2013
This was one of those books from which you have to recover for a few days before moving on to another. Despite the horribly disturbing and distressing topic (sexual abuse of children, child pornography) this story was told so powerfully, so poignantly that I had a really hard time putting it down (and stayed up until 2:30 this morning to finish it *yawn*). Kittle managed to carefully tiptoe the line between describing just enough and describing too much. It was enough to make me squirm uncomfortably and feel disturbed, aching and saddened for the victims, without making me feel like I was behaving immorally or amorally by reading it. This story made me weep. It terrified me. It made me angry. And it even made me hopeful, which surprised me. The characters were beautifully written, with so much detail and insight. Kittle really knew her characters, and I feel like I know them too because her writing was so genuine! I deeply appreciated reading the evolution of the relationship between the mother Sarah and her son Nate. I loved the way Nate was written, all his hesitations in communicating with his mom, his fears and hopes - it made me feel like I was getting a special little peek inside the brain of a smart, maturing teenage boy like my own son. And Sarah was so real. I can't even begin to describe how powerfully written the character Jordan was. To read his journey and evolution was incredibly moving and emotional.

I don't even know how to give the writing of this book proper credit. I guess I'll just say that I have a tendency to skip long descriptive paragraphs and search ahead for dialog when I'm reading something that doesn't engage me fully. Heck, I do that sometimes even if I am fully engaged. I'm just a little impatient I guess. But I read and felt every single word of this book. Everything was written deliberately. Nothing felt like filler. Nothing felt unnecessary.

I hesitate recommending this to anyone because the subject is so disturbing. Yet getting through the disturbing to understand the title of the book and the overarching theme of the story was an emotional journey worth taking, in my opinion. I've never been so glad to "pick a book by its cover" off the shelf at the thrift store as I was to have picked this one.

P.S. In the spirit of full disclosure and because language is important to me... the chapters written about Nate specifically have some "typical teenage boy" language (including my least favorite word) quite a few times.
Profile Image for Sheryl Sorrentino.
Author 6 books88 followers
March 8, 2015
This is a tough book to review. As purely a novel, I would give it 3.5 stars. The writing is fairly simple; moments of raw emotion few, but powerful. The Laden family, Jordan, and the various professionals are all likeable enough as characters, and I think the author did a decent job illuminating a really difficult subject within the context of a family saga. I found Jordan’s mom, Courtney Kendrick, to be a bit strained as a psychological profile of a child molester, but then, I am no expert. Jordan’s father, on the other hand, is given zero treatment in this book, which I consider a crucial flaw given that he was a major source of Jordan’s abuse and suffering. Perhaps the author determined that giving him any "air time" whatsoever would make this book irreparably distasteful.

That said, there is nothing prurient about this novel, and while disturbing, I did not find it overly graphic or needlessly detailed. While I agree with some reviewers that the troubling subject matter—child sexual abuse and pornography—shouldn’t be cloaked as a “spoiler” since it might be offensive to many, the author shouldn’t be penalized for tackling this all-too-real topic. The strength of this story is in its ability to open readers’ eyes to a pervasive if largely hidden issue in our society; unfortunately, far too many of us are happy to turn a blind eye. Some of the negative reviews bear this out, as they essentially say, “I didn’t want to read about something so troubling.”

I see billboards about child prostitution every day. Coincidentally, the same day I finished the book, I noticed a poster in the public library about the prevalence of sexual abuse and exploitation of children under the age of twelve in our local communities. Kittle’s book prompted me to go on the website at the end (www.dare2heal.org) to learn more about the signs of child sexual abuse and the ways to prevent it. The Kindness of Strangers also gave me a greater appreciation of the lasting damage done to victims of this despicable crime. Kittle deserves kudos for raising awareness while still delivering a readable, believable and valuable story.
Profile Image for Mindy.
251 reviews14 followers
April 26, 2013
I finished The Kindness of Strangers a few hours ago and I’m still reeling, still thinking about the characters and what happens to them next—two good signs that you’ve just read a very well done and powerful novel. The story takes place in Oakhaven, which must be a pseudonym for Oakwood, a small suburb just outside Dayton that I lived in 20-odd years ago, so this book was even more stirring for me. I could smell the unique aroma of the market Sarah frequents as I read, see the streets Jordan wanders. But it wasn’t just these details that pulled me in. On page 213, for example, Kittle gives us this artfully crafted detail: “She poured the cream and found herself idly trying to match the exact color of Reece’s skin with her coffee. A few more drops and she had it.” Reece’s complexion is more Colin Powell than Cedric the Entertainer, but without Kittle ever blatantly stating it; the book is full of details like this one. The story deals with two horrific topics, child sexual abuse and child pornography, so parts of it are difficult to read, but woven throughout is a strong sense that, while this is a common problem (and Kittle includes several statistics, just in case you were unaware exactly how common), the world is full of people who will do nearly anything to help. It reminds me of the Fred Rogers quote, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.’” And that’s exactly what this book does—focuses on the helpers, on getting through impossible situations with love, compassion and grace. I’m not sure how Kittle took such heart-rending topics and infused a sense of hopefulness throughout, but she did and she did it expertly. This is the first Kittle novel I’ve read, but I know it won’t be my last.
Profile Image for Claudia.
2,441 reviews86 followers
April 2, 2009
You know that feeling, when something really sad happens, when you can't seem to take a full breath, and your chest hurts? All through this book I fought to breathe. Poor Jordan HAS to rely on the kindness of strangers, because both parents are monsters. Sarah and her boys, Nate and Danny, are dealing with the death of their husband and father, supported by the neighbors, Courtney and Mark. But the neighbors' secrets blow the town, and Sarah's family sky high. Sexual depravity and molestation, with their own son Jordan as the victim. All the unspeakable things happen to Jordan before the book begins, but as Sarah and Nate and the reader discover how horrible the abuse was, we sink deeper and deeper into the abyss.

Nate convinces Sarah to become Jordan's foster mother with both parents in jail, since she's always taught her boys to reach out to others in need. We just didn't have any idea how needy Jordan is. I literally groaned reading this, knowing it is fiction, but for some children this is their life.

Kittle uses robins and mama birds and nests to bring her story full circle. This is one that will haunt me for a long time...I know that is her plan. Important book!
Profile Image for Katt.
424 reviews7 followers
March 1, 2010
This book was really difficult for me to read. Being abused as a child and dealing with the questions of "why didn't you tell" have been subjects that I have had to deal with my whole life. I am still and will always be dealing. The love for a parent and the protection of "family" are the strongest bonds a child can have as well as the most desired bonds a person can long for.
I don't know if any of Katrina Kittle's story is true or if it is derived from a true story but it takes some serious courage to talk about the details of abuse that I don't have.
I am extremely impressed with the ability of the character Sarah and her family to help this poor child despite their own grief of loosing their father/spouse and the very mature nature of the character Nate. I am also so pleased to know that there really are people out there like Sarah (Carolyn for one!) who are willing to help out these needy souls. I wish I could be more giving and I wish people were more willing to accept that this horrible, horrible shit goes on every day. Not just with impoverished people of the New York projects but the white, republican, middle class. What a great book.
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