The story Bennett tells is sad—indeed, heartbreaking. Reading page after page of the sickening statistics and facts that have accompanied the breakdown of the family over the past 30 years is a sobering experience. This is especially true when one contemplates the large numbers of divorced families where children are forced to make the most miserable decision imaginable to them—choosing sides between their mother and their father; or the unfortunate ones who simply never know their mother or father; or the many who come to know and trust their daycare provider better than their own parents.
Bennett demonstrates, without a hint of shrillness or smugness, the depth of human suffering that has accompanied the destruction of the family, while painting a vivid picture of the goodness and desirability of healthy families. With a poetic artfulness, he leads the reader to see something of the genuine beauty of the family, and the joy robbed from those who have been swindled by modern doctrines of nihilism, parading in the guise of "self expression" and "individual autonomy." Bennett tackles head-on the leading arguments against, and movements away from, the nuclear family and the traditional roles of motherhood and fatherhood—from divorce as a liberating institution for women to homosexual unions to the skyrocketing rates of illegitimacy, fatherlessness, public welfare, and dependence on daycare for the rearing of children. And he shows that at the center of these liberal and libertarian doctrines and institutions is a rejection of objective morality that undermines not only the family, but all that Americans once considered good and decent and sacred.
Going beyond the usual conservative argument for the social utility of the family, Bennett explains in human terms the real happiness and contentment that spring from a healthy family life. Such an effort is critically important today, as more Americans than ever before—including many who might read The Broken Hearth—will not know firsthand what a happy family is.
There is much work to be done if we are to resuscitate the American family, and rediscover the moral foundation upon which it rests. But if we rise up to the challenge, William Bennett's fine book will prove invaluable in our struggle.