Katherine Center’s (’90) “The Lost Husband” adapted into film

%22The+Lost+Husband%22+captures+a+love+story+between+recently+widowed+Libby+and+a+shaggy%2C+gruff+farm+manager%2C+James+O%E2%80%99Connor.

Courtesy Image

"The Lost Husband" captures a love story between recently widowed Libby and a shaggy, gruff farm manager, James O’Connor.

Ella West, Copy Editor

Six years ago, a friend gave director and screenwriter Vicky Wight a copy of “The Lost Husband,” a novel written by Katherine Center (’90), mother of Anna (’21) and Thomas (’24). Within 24 hours, she wanted to write and direct the movie adaptation, which is being released on April 10. 

Wight, parent of fifth grader Calla and eighth grader Lyall, generated her initial screenwriting vision the first time she read Center’s novel. 

“Katherine writes characters who feel authentic,” Wight said. “I could run into any of these people at the grocery store or farmers market. The second I finished the novel, I said ‘I know how to make this film. I know this world.’”

In the film, Libby (played by Leslie Bibb), a mother of two, moves from the bustling city of Houston, Texas, to live at her estranged aunt’s farm after the death of her husband. Libby must learn how to live on a farm and adapt to a grueling rural lifestyle. 

Wight chose to adapt the scenes she felt would turn out the most compelling on the big screen. To Wight, two major facets constitute the plot of the film—a love story between Libby and a shaggy, gruff farm manager, James O’Connor (played by Josh Duhamel), and the dynamic between Auntie Marsha and Libby. 

“It’s difficult to adapt a novel at times because there’s so much you want to include,” Wight said. “You have 90 or so pages in a script, and you have to focus on the essence of what makes the story special.” 

Wight added more background to the original characters to allow actors to draw and develop their characters from a deep foundation and history.

You may be stuck at home, but you have the opportunity to be transported into this lovely, heartwarming place.”

— Katherine Center

“When I heard the casting, I was so excited,” Center said. “I loved Josh Duhamel in a movie called ‘Life as We Know It’ and am thrilled he was a part of the movie. I wasn’t as familiar with Leslie, but her character was like I imagined, and I was so impressed.”

Center’s novel was inspired by a childhood friend and his wife, who sold their house in Houston and moved to the countryside to start a goat farm. 

“We were all shocked. We never expected them to do something like that, but, they did—they moved out and bought a herd of Nubian goats,” Center said. “And then, one day we went to visit them on the farm, and I was completely blown away by how charming it was.”

The actual writing process of the book became quite difficult when Center realized she did not know much about goat farming and the processes that went into maintaining a farm like this. 

“I grew up in Texas, so I thought I would be able to write a book about farming pretty easily, but when I realized I didn’t, I panicked,” Center said. “I kept going out to the goat farm to do more research. I would film the cheese making process or tour the farm to see all of the different aspects.”

Michael Hagerty
Vicky Wight and Katherine Center at Houston Matters.

Once the book was written and published, Wight reached out to Center to option the movie rights to the novel. Center was excited, but apprehensive because one of her previous books had been optioned as well to become a movie but did not pan out. Through working with Wight, her fears were relieved.

“Vicky is a very determined and focused person,” Center said. “She has been passionate from the start of this project. She had a vision and knew she could make it happen, and she truly did. I have just been in awe of all she has been able to accomplish.” 

Once Wight started creating the movie, Center had little involvement. When filming began, Center and her family were invited to be extras in a farmers market scene in Austin. 

“Acting is a lot more difficult than you think,” Center said. “And from my experience, being an extra is very hard too because you have to do normal things while not making any noise.”

The movie was originally supposed to premiere in LA and be in 25 cities in the U.S. However, with the current pandemic, it is streaming on April 10 on Apple TV, Amazon Prime, VDU, Comcast and more. 

 “Of course, many of our plans had to be cancelled, but that’s okay,” Center said. “I feel like this is a great gift to everyone who is quarantined. You may be stuck at home, but you have the opportunity to be transported into this lovely, heartwarming place.”