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Falling Into Place: A Memoir of Overcoming

Falling Into Place: A Memoir of Overcoming

4.9 10
by Hattie Kauffman

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From her humble beginnings to the bright lights of network television, Hattie Kauffman weaves a story both heartbreaking and redemptive. Nationally recognized for her high-profile interviews and coverage of disasters and triumphs that affected millions, Kauffman candidly shares the experiences that made her into a perceptive and award-winning newswoman.



From her humble beginnings to the bright lights of network television, Hattie Kauffman weaves a story both heartbreaking and redemptive. Nationally recognized for her high-profile interviews and coverage of disasters and triumphs that affected millions, Kauffman candidly shares the experiences that made her into a perceptive and award-winning newswoman.

An inspiring account of the Holy Spirit's transforming power, Kauffman's life is a true testament to God's goodness. Now available in trade paper.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Former network television correspondent Kauffman weaves together the stories of her childhood, her difficult divorce, and her coming to faith in an absorbing memoir. Kauffman, a member of the Nez Perce tribe, recounts a childhood marked by poverty and her parents’ alcohol abuse. Her first husband abused her in a marriage also made toxic by alcohol. Yet Kauffman’s recollections include strong sibling bonds, a loving Christian missionary aunt, and opportunities opened to her because of her intelligence. She juggles a lot narratively; the story line involving her divorce from her second husband moves forward in chronological order while scenes from childhood come and go, requiring the reader to pay close attention. Kauffman’s selectivity permits her to be discreet about some past events, even as she edges close to too much information and self-pity about an obviously painful divorce. Kauffman’s well-written account of her chaotic childhood is reminiscent of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, though not as emotionally fine-tuned. The faith element is light, which can broaden this memoir’s appeal. Agent: Ambassador Literary Agency. (Sept. 14)

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Falling into Place

A MEMOIR OF Overcoming

By Hattie Kauffman

Baker Books

Copyright © 2013 Hattie Kau!man
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8010-1538-0


The woman in front of me was in no shape to be on television. Her face was lifeless—her eyes red, swollen, vacant. She met my gaze as if begging to be told what to do, but I had no idea how to help her and felt every bit as lost as she looked. All I could think to do was recite the facts as I knew them. Maybe facts would bring clarity and direction.

You have a shoot this morning. You should take a shower.

My words bounced o! her cold image in the mirror. She wasn't listening.

I turned away, but movement felt nearly impossible under the weight of limbs too heavy to lift. My mind felt as though it were slipping in and out of time and I struggled to stay focused on what I was doing. Thirty minutes passed, maybe an hour. I hardly remembered showering, couldn't recall picking out my outfit or applying my camera-ready makeup. Then I was in the middle of the kitchen, staring at everything and nothing in particular—the kitchen belonged to the woman I was yesterday. This morning, the space didn't seem to know me. The instincts born of habit felt foreign and irrelevant.

You should eat breakfast.

But how could I, knowing he was just down the hall?

I tiptoed back past the guest room where he was sleeping and made my way to the master bedroom. Our new bedding looked regal in its gold and burgundy. It was only weeks ago we'd walked around Bloomingdale's and decided which fabric and pattern we liked. The big sleigh bed itself was also new.

We have a brand-new bed.

Our wedding photo sat upon the dresser. We looked impossibly young. The groom didn't have a single grey hair. I touched the picture, tracing my fingers over our faces, landing finally on our wedding kiss. We had awakened to this photo for seventeen years.

I carried the picture, in its marble frame, back to the kitchen and set it on the counter to face him when he got up. Then I walked out of the house to begin a three-hour drive to Lompoc for my shoot.

I was in no state to be behind the wheel of a car. As I headed up Sunset Boulevard and got onto the 405 Freeway, I was struggling to see through tears. By the time I merged onto Highway 101, crying became weeping. As I passed Ventura, my weeping turned to wailing. Tissues littered the front seat. Whatever had held me together was gone.

By Santa Barbara, I was cried out. I glanced at the clock, in a brief lucid moment, and realized I was an hour ahead of schedule. It hadn't occurred to me to check the time when I was still at the house. I had simply needed to go. I pulled o! the highway to regroup, gather myself, and reapply my eye makeup. Maybe I should try again to eat.

A few minutes later I found myself being seated in the hushed, elegant breakfast garden of the Four Seasons Hotel, overlooking the ocean. A waiter set freshly squeezed orange juice before me and asked if I'd like a New York Times.


I stared at him as if he were speaking a foreign language. And then I was angry at his insensitivity. Who reads the New York Times on a day like this? Did I look like I wanted to read a paper?

Right. I'm a news correspondent. I read the New York Times every day.

I dumbly shook my head. Not this day.

Gazing at the brilliant blue of the ocean, I didn't notice when food was set before me. When the waiter brought the check, I saw an hour had passed and I'd barely touched my plate. I couldn't recall having a single thought during that time. It was as if I'd been clubbed on the head, so stunned that my thoughts had vanished.

Am I falling apart? You can't fall apart, Hattie. You never fall apart.

That thin reassurance sent my mind tumbling back in time, searching for proof of this assertion.

Look Directly into the Camera

"Focus," I tell myself, facing the huge studio camera.

I am twenty-six years old and about to anchor my first news broadcast. And in Seattle, of all places—the same city that couldn't break us but came close, the city that was supposed to be a new beginning for Mom and Dad when they left the reservation—but where we seven kids found ourselves, more than once, huddled in a parked car on First Avenue waiting for them to come out of a tavern.

"Mom, can we go now? Please?"

"Soon," she'd call to us, before disappearing again into the dark doorway of a bar, while we waited in the cold car. She'd emerge some time later, with a pronouncement of, "Soonly."

"Mom, let's go. We want to go home."

"Soonly," she'd sing. "Soonly."

I pull my mind back from thoughts of my family and our history as I shuffle through the script pages and prepare to report Seattle's morning headlines. Yet, who could've predicted that that shivering, skinny, Indian kid would someday be anchoring the news? Does it show? Will they see how far in over my head I am?

The station's theme music comes on. With the floor director's fingers punching the air just below the camera lens, the countdown begins: five-four-three-two-one—and I'm on ... live television. Before I'm halfway through reading the second story on the teleprompter, the director's voice crackles through my earpiece, "Drop page six."

My brain works two paths. I am reading, hitting the words with overemphasized inflection, as I try to give them meaning and weight, while simultaneously reaching down to pull page six out of the pile in front of me and sliding it to the side. The teleprompter rolls on.

This chance to anchor is a complete fluke. I'm the rookie in the newsroom, a reporter for only a year. But the early morning newscast has just one anchor and one overnight reporter, and last night they both called in sick.

When my phone rang in the middle of the night, the managing editor asked if I knew how to anchor.

"Of course," I said, although I had never read from a teleprompter and had zero experience.

There's no makeup person in local morning news, so I apply my own powder and lipstick. Too much? Not enough? My long brown hair hangs down my back. I look like what I am, a recent grad student and newly divorced mom of two kids who are depending on me to make it as a news reporter.

They're probably just waking up now to get ready for school.

Now's not the time to think about that. Focus, Hattie. We're going to a commercial break. Look directly into the camera. Smile.

* * *

"No, you didn't fall apart," I whispered, as if it was the me of twenty-five years ago that needed a pat on the back. You bluffed your way onto the air and became an anchorwoman, and then a network correspondent, and now ... I glanced about the luxurious restaurant like I'd just been dropped into the present, noticing the check the waiter had left on the table, a big bill for uneaten food, and remembered that even now a camera crew was waiting for me.

I paid the breakfast bill and continued north on Highway 101. By the time I arrived at the shoot in Lompoc, I appeared so ravaged the producer averted her eyes and inhaled, as if buying time to figure out how to tell me I looked like roadkill.

Our assignment was a feature story on a thriving home business that sold products from Africa. I interviewed the owner, a billowy black woman, who told me God had awakened her one morning with the distinct message that she must help women in Africa.

I gave a routine, disconnected nod—partly in an attempt to mask my annoyance at being dragged all the way up here to talk to a crazy woman who seriously believed God had spoken to her, and partly because no matter what she was saying, I simply could not bring myself to fully engage with her. Her responses sounded like static in my ears. I hardly asked a single follow-up question to anything she said. So she kept speaking and I kept nodding. But as we went on, her dark eyes bored into mine.

"God woke me up," she repeated.

The Long Road

"Wake up. Hattie, wake up."

I am seven years old and my little sister Carla is shaking me awake. Blinking against the brightness of the lightbulb overhead, I give her a cranky face, roll over, and close my eyes again.

"Wake up. We're going to Idaho," she urges.

I sit up. It is the middle of the night. Every light in the house is on. Bleary eyed, I see Carla has a paper bag in her hand and is looking for clothes to throw into it, while the youngest two girls are still asleep at my feet. The scene doesn't make sense to my drowsy brain.

"Come on, girls." Mom's yell comes from the bottom of the stairs, in the high, nasally pitch that lets me know I'd better jump. It's another After Closing Time Road Trip.

We never know when one might happen. A year could go by, or we might have two in one month. It could be in the summer or during the school year. We groggily pile into the backseat of the car. She throws a blanket over us and we speed o! into the night. Somewhere in the desert, sunrise will jerk us awake. Mom might have pulled over and be asleep, or she might be squinting hard against the light, still driving, a beer bottle between her knees.

I can't guess what Idaho is for her.

For me, it's a ton of tough cousins, girls who hit like boys, some who make fun of us for being half white. But it also means Grandma and the smell of pies baking. And cold rivers, tall pine trees, Grandpa's gentle laugh, and ...

"Hey, wake up." My sister shakes me again. "We're in Idaho. We're here."

A Thousand Miles Away

I shook o! the memory, returning my attention to the African American woman, who hopefully had no idea my thoughts were in another time and place. She seemed to be waiting for me to respond and so I nodded, feigning understanding, while inwardly wondering at my sudden inability to remain in the here and now.

"I could not ignore God," she continued, leaning forward and staring at me until my own discomfort made me look down at my notes. After a pause she went on, "Even though I had no idea how to proceed, I couldn't ignore him."

The certainty of her words reached into my fog and pulled at me. For the first time, I felt myself leaning forward. Something here felt true and personal. Does she see? Does she know? I pushed my intrigue aside and settled back in my chair again, hurrying through the rest of the interview and just wanting it to be over.

As the crew was breaking down the gear and I was gathering my things to leave, the woman approached me. She grabbed hold of my arms and looked at me again with those dark eyes. "Women all over the world will be praying for you," she said.

Praying for me?

And then, this extraordinary person embraced me, full-on hugged me. Despite my astonishment, part of me wanted to press into her and collapse into those sheltering arms. But I stiffened and pulled back. Why bother, I thought. It's too late. I didn't need her pity. Or her God.

Walk Away Hollow

"I don't want the white man's God," I whisper harshly into the phone, turning my back so my sisters and brother won't hear me. We are gathered around the phone in the living room, which we do whenever Aunt Teddy calls.

"Oh, Hattie," Teddy begins, her voice thin and tinny over the long-distance line.

It is 1970. I am fifteen and disgusted that I was ever taken in by her words. No loving God could have created my world.

"It's not a white man's God, Hattie. Christ died for all people."

"The missionaries just wanted to steal our land," I sneer. "The government needed to tame the Indians, so they sent in the Christians."


"I don't want to hear anymore. I'm finished with it."

I drop the receiver dismissively into the hand of the next sister in line waiting to talk to Aunt Teddy. In rejecting her God, I am pushing away the only person who has consistently been kind to me. I walk away hollow.

Unsteady Steps

I practically staggered back to my car, so desperate was I to get away from the camera crew and the intense lady talking about God. It's a wonder I didn't kill anyone that day, driving six hours on freeways, in and out of tears, in and out of focus. Just as I was reaching the outer edge of Los Angeles, my cell phone rang.

"Hi, it's me," he said.

"It's me?" Does he think I've already forgotten his voice?

"Hi," I answered, tempted to add, "It's me."

"Do you want to get dinner?" he asked.

He's back.

"Yes!" I exclaimed. "Do you want to go out? Or shall we eat at home?"

"At home," he said, and added, "I love you."

I relaxed into my seat, exhausted. We'd have dinner and let go of last night's madness.

The kitchen was mine again as I prepared lamb shank, sure that he was on his way home to give me an explanation.

Later, as I set the table, I heard the door handle click. In expectation, I swung around to meet him, only to feel my smile falter at the sight of his stilted posture.

He came through the door but couldn't quite enter the room. My movements slowed as I placed the food on the table. He set down his briefcase.

"Hi," he said.


"Smells good," he offered.

"I made lamb shank."

He could see that.

"I thought lamb shank would be good."

There was no reason to keep repeating it, but I frantically grabbed it like a life raft.

"You always liked lamb shank."

"It smells good," he repeated, walking like a stick figure to take his seat at the table. Unwilling to give up the ritual, I put salt and pepper before him, and took my seat as well. In silence, we picked up our knives and forks. The enormous quiet pressed against me, forcing my mind to scramble for something to say, as if a pleasantry like, "How was your day?" might save the situation. But before I could begin, he blurted, "I want to be perfectly clear. I want a divorce."


He seemed surprised at my surprise.

"What did you think I meant last night?"

"Well ..."

Of course, he had meant divorce.

"But you didn't use the D-word," I said lamely.

"I didn't?"

"No. You didn't."

We set down our utensils. No one cared about lamb shank.

"I didn't say the word 'divorce'?" he asked, incredulously.

He shook his head and muttered to himself, "... and I've really been trying to work on my honesty."

Something about the introspective expression on his face made me conscious of the vast expanse between us; me, merely a bystander witnessing a man wonder at his own lack of honesty. Then, as if he remembered I was in the room, he turned to me with a whip of his head and declared, "Yes. I want a divorce." He said it with the inflection of someone deciding which salad dressing to order in a restaurant. "Yes, I'll have the bleu cheese. Yes, I want a divorce."

"But ... but ... how come?" I felt as though I was stumbling over my own feet. "Is there someone else?"

"It's not about that," he dismissed.

"Well, what is it about?"

He retreated into something from the previous night's refrain: "I have to live according to my commitments."

I had no idea what that meant the first time he said it and the repetition of it now seemed robotic—rehearsed, even.

"But our marriage is our commitment."

"Our marriage is a fraud," he answered.

Since when?

"I have to live in integrity," he said, through gritted teeth.

What does that mean?

A wallop of fear wouldn't allow me to ask if integrity meant being true to someone else, if there were another commitment that I was not aware of. Nothing in me felt brave enough to hear the answer, and so, as if covering up the topic, I placed my hand over his.

"Why, honey? Why divorce? I don't understand."

When he didn't answer, I continued asking, a third and fourth time. He met these questions by darting his eyes about, to his plate, to the ceiling, out the window. At last, in a rushing exhale, he blurted, "You're just not suitable at business dinners."


"You just, you make everyone uncomfortable," he added. "You're socially awkward. All my friends say I'm more myself when you're not around."

Disbelief turned to a tortured attempt to entertain his premise and argue against it. I reminded him of the couple who'd been trying for weeks to get together with us for dinner. They certainly didn't seem to be uncomfortable with me. In fact, the wife and I had talked on the phone the other day about scheduling dinner. I recalled suddenly that we'd set the date for next week.

We can't get a divorce. We're having dinner with friends.

"Forget it, I already told them." He shrugged.

My hand shot up to cover my mouth. Had she known when we were on the phone? Humiliation hit me. To avoid absorbing it, I clawed my way back to his suggestion that I make people uncomfortable and, ridiculously, did a mental scan of all the other couples we'd dined with recently, and mentioned one.

"They were very uncomfortable at dinner," he replied.

"You're divorcing me because your friends were uncomfortable at dinner?"

"No," he sighed. "That's not it. It's ..."

"What?" I repeated. "What is it?"

Shifting in his seat, his visible distress jolted me with a new possibility.

He's dying and he doesn't want to tell me.

That would explain the determined coldness, the hurtful words. He was shutting o! debate ... to protect me from having to go through his death. Like a contortionist, I twisted my thinking so that betrayal could appear as kindness. I invented one diagnosis after another, from a brain tumor to Alzheimer's.

"Are you sick? Is that it?" I asked, caressing his shoulder.

"No," he said, looking down at the table as if speaking to the cold, congealing lamb shank.

"Then, why? Just tell me, why?"

In the silence of his non-answers, my mind raced. An image of the trendy pair of jeans I'd noticed a few weeks ago came to mind. It wasn't just the tight jeans. Everything right down to his underwear was brand-new. In fact, his wardrobe had undergone such a strange overhaul that perhaps ...

Excerpted from Falling into Place by Hattie Kauffman. Copyright © 2013 Hattie Kau!man. Excerpted by permission of Baker Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Hattie Kauffman made history as the first Native American journalist to ever file a report on a national network evening news broadcast and has over two decades of experience as an on-camera correspondent and news anchor. A speaker and writer, Hattie is a member of the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho and lives in Seattle, Washington.
Hattie Kauffman made history as the first Native American journalist to ever file a report on a national network evening news broadcast and has over two decades of experience as an on-camera correspondent and news anchor. A speaker and writer, Hattie is a member of the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho and lives in Seattle, Washington.

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Falling into Place: A Memoir of Overcoming 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
PaulH More than 1 year ago
Falling into Place is a great book. It details the life of Hattie Kauffman, the first Native American reporter to file a report on a national network. The book details Hattie’s struggles as a child and carries us through to her success as a journalist. Along the way we find out what makes Hattie tick. She is a great role model for Native Americans, Women, and everyone else.
Laurel_Rose_Lundberg More than 1 year ago
Falling Into Place is a wonderfully touching memoir. It takes us from Hattie Kauffman's troubled youth to her success on the world's stage. It is beautifully written and touches the heart with a message of hope.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read. Tears and happy endings.
Virginiaw More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this story.  I don't normally read too much nonfiction but was asked if I would review this  by Smith Publicity, Inc. and am glad I did.  Reading about what she went through as a child and then with her divorc was enlightening.  It was very sad.  It is surprising how well some people turn out even with a trying childhood.  I am glad she was able to get through all of her troubles.
BLUEFISH99 More than 1 year ago
Found this such an amazing novel, although I am not familiar with american journalists or anchorwomen, its a gem of a story, growing up in a home full of alcoholism abuse and poverty , from the loss of her mother and then her beloved father who was her rock through growing up,she was able to embrace go on her journey, embark on  a healing and kindness and learning experience and emerge like a butterfly out of a cocoon.
druidgirl More than 1 year ago
Hattie told us her story from her sad and painful childhood right through her marriage,divorce and religious conversion.She gives us hope that something bad can turn out wonderful! She gives people hope that they can obtain whatever they want if only they try and persist, I find it admirable that she finally finds God after so many years of running from it. This was a book of life and faith.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Quite possibly one of the best books I have ever read. It captures your attention from beginning to end, I would recommend this book to all of my friends and family. Hattie is a truly wonderful and gifted individual.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a beautiful story! I couldn't put it down. The short vignettes flowed beautifully between her difficult upbringing and her incredibly successful adulthood to create a moving story. It doesn't read like a bitter memoir, but is a story of hope. There are heroes and angels along the way that I will not soon forget. Read this book and watch Hattie find herself and God....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Falling into Place is a beautify written book by a remarkable woman that had me captivated from the first page to the last.