The Lost Husband by Katherine Center. Originally written for Yahoo.
In The Lost Husband, Katherine Pannill Center somehow combines a list of fairly generic chick lit tropes into an original and compulsively readable story.
Sure, the protagonist, Libby, is a young widow bringing her adorable children to find peace and the simple life on the family farm, but it doesn’t lead to worn-out epiphanies about finding the value of Real Life (TM) after giving up Starbucks and smartphones.
The story opens when Libby’s Aunt Jean, a goat farmer and the small town’s psychiatrist, invites Libby and her two children to escape living with Libby’s self-absorbed mother and help her on the family farm. Which is, incidentally, managed by a handsome, rugged loner who is wonderful with children and likes to sing to the goats. Also Aunt Jean likes to read zombie thrillers and make out with her octogenarian boyfriend. His granddaughter, Sunshine, is a post-rehab Hollywood actress who becomes Libby’s friend by offering the contact Libby’s dead husband. Also everyone wears a lot of overalls.
On the family farm, Libby deals with a nuanced grief over her husband, and resettling her children as a single mother. She also uncovers a family secret, which is, fortunately for us readers, not the obvious, and eventually confronts the rocky relationship has has with her mother, as well. Dramatic moments and drastic twists are all very believable because the characters are so human and complex, both delightfully quirky and believably flawed. While there is the required romance between Libby and the Handsome Rugged Texan, it’s a lot more than boy-meets-girl. Throughout the novel, all the characters grow and change and are generally awesome.
You could shelve The Lost Husband with chick lit, but it’s so much more than an airport novel.