Book Review: When Knowing Comes, A Legal Drama: A Novel by Kelly Green by Jeffery C. Fereday

by Jeffrey C. Fereday

Shame, repressed memories, denial, ruined marital intimacy, courtroom drama, and family tragedy–all arising from childhood sexual abuse occurring decades before – are themes in Kelly Green’s gripping first novel, When Knowing Comes. The book is an insightful examination of the layered tragedies resulting from the sexual abuse of children. I found the book a compelling read. 

The story, which covers 50 years and two generations of victims, unfolds in a seemingly safe and cheery American situation: a youth soccer club and the suburban families deeply invested in it. The legal drama at the center of this story concerns one of these young players who, some twenty-four years after suffering sexual abuse, finds the courage to sue the youth soccer organization that ignored the crimes being committed on its watch. 

The author is Boise attorney Kelly Greene McConnell, here writing under a pen name. Her background serves her well, as she serves up vivid descriptions of the personalities, the egos, the tactics, and the tough decisions involved in the litigation process.

In this story, the victim’s lawyer is his best friend and former soccer teammate, a man who harbors his own guilt for not coming forward when he witnessed inappropriate behavior by an assistant coach and sensed his friend’s pain all those years ago. Well-organized flashbacks put the reader sometimes with the young players and their parents and coaches, sometimes in the present as the litigation is pursued, sometimes observing the perpetrator’s past, and sometimes with a long-buried trauma that lurks behind the narrative and finally emerges in its own tragedy.

For years we have witnessed the slow grind of public revelations–and sometimes some level of legal accountability–for sexual abuse occurring in churches, in young people’s organizations, and in the sports world. This book is an important contribution to understanding how these crimes often are overlooked or intentionally hidden, how they seem to have their own way of remaining secret, and how the resulting psychological damage can persist for a lifetime. Putting us in the thoughts of one of the parents who had begun to figure out what was happening, Green writes, “She watched the children laughing and playing as she walked by and pondered the safety of their world. How many of you will grow up battling the hurt of your childhood? Some of you might not survive that battle.” 

In the book’s Author’s Notes, Ms. Green lists “inspirations and resources” for this project and provides an invaluable bibliography of studies, news reports, memoirs, film documentaries, sports facts, and literature on this difficult subject. 

The author is donating this book’s proceeds to non-profits dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse.

Jeffrey C. Fereday

Jeffrey “Jeff” C. Fereday is a retired Boise attorney. He was the author’s law partner for many years.