First, I have to say Night Road by Kristin Hannah was an excellent book (the best I’ve read in some time). I cried, I cheered, I lost hope … and I got it back again.
The story revolves around four characters: high school twins Mia and Zach; their mother Judy; and a former foster child, Lexi (who is first Mia’s best friend and then Zach’s girlfriend and lover). One night the three teenagers drink and drive. There’s a crash, and Mia is thrown from the car and killed. Lexi (who was driving) pleads guilty to killing Mia and goes to jail.
Jail? That seems extreme, doesn’t it? Drinking and driving is a “Bad Decision” that literally thousands of people make every weekend, but obviously they don’t all crash and die. (That’s the “Bad Luck” part.)
Granted, this is fiction, but strangely enough, I was just finishing this book when I heard a story that was a true-life example (albeit not quite as dramatic).
As a young adult living in Colorado, this friend had been pulled over by the cops (for speeding) and when asked if she’d been drinking, she answered truthfully (she’d had a few). She was charged with “Driving While Ability Impaired” (DWAI), which is “less” than a DUI (defined as “a person need only be affected to the slightest degree so that he or she is less able to drive than he or she ordinarily would have been”).
Her license suspended. Mandatory alcohol-awareness classes. Court dates. Attorney fees. Worrying about losing her job. Difficulties getting to school without a driver’s license.
And her story didn’t end there, unfortunately. The very night before she was to get her license back, she made one of those “Bad Decisions” to accompany a group of friends out bar-hopping. To make a long story short, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time (“Bad Luck”), and though she’d had only 2-3 drinks over the entire evening, she got another DWAI – and this time they took her to the hospital for a blood test, a very scary experience, and held her overnight in a jail cell. The whole cycle started over.
This friend talked about the shame and embarrassment that followed her around for YEARS. There was one month she was required to wear an ankle bracelet (she didn’t go anywhere for that month). She couldn’t leave the state to start her career. She couldn’t be fully honest with certain people in her life.
So, back to Night Road… Lexi gives birth to a girl and gives her up to Zach, believing that will ensure the girl has a happy life. Five years later, she finds that isn’t true, and her intentions to stay out of her daughter’s life evaporate. Lexi is a fighter, a true spirit, and I don’t want to give away the ending, but hope does come back.
I think of my friend like the character in the book. Her entire life plans derailed when a Bad Decision collided with Bad Luck. And a system that doesn’t seem to have the capacity to recognize THAT versus intentional crime.
But hope does come back.