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The True Story Behind 'The Vow'

An interview with Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, whose story inspired the recent motion picture.
By Mary May Larmoyeux


Kim and Krickitt Carpenter were traveling to see family for Thanksgiving when their white Ford Escort was involved in a horrendous collision. Married for only two months, their bodies and lives were shattered on November 24, 1993.

When Krickitt emerged from a coma, she did not know her husband. She had lost 18 months of memory—which meant she didn’t remember meeting, dating, and marrying Kim. And Kim had lost the woman he once knew as his wife.

Since that time, Krickitt has never regained those memories. Yet she and her husband have remained committed to their original wedding vows. Their book The Vow tells the true story of their challenging journey. Originally published in 2000, an updated version was released in 2012.

The Carpenters’ love story also inspired a major motion picture, also called The Vow. Starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum, it became a box-office hit in February. Actually, “loosely inspired” might be a better phrase, because the movie differs greatly from the Carpenters’ true story of faith in Jesus Christ. For example, the couple in the movie gets a divorce—something that the Carpenters had promised one another and God that they would never do.  (The PG-13 film also contains content that some viewers may find objectionable—see reviews on PluggedIn.com, TheMovieGuide.org, and KidsInMind.com.)

Kim and Krickitt recently visited FamilyLife’s headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas, for an interview on FamilyLife Today.  I had the chance to talk with them about their involvement with the film and about how God choreographed the events of their lives to remind a watching world that lasting love still matters.

How did your story become known nationally?

Kim: One of the first times that we gave our testimony, there was a guest pastor and he said, “You need to come to our church.”  

Krickitt: I said, “Okay, Lord, I guess people get encouraged by our story. If you want us to do something with it, I pray something happens.”  I put our story in His hands and trusted Him with the results.

Kim: About a week after Krickitt prayed, along came a guy … who was doing a show called On the Road with Van Tate. When I was named the head baseball coach of Highlands University [in Las Vegas, New Mexico] it had been a big deal. … I was the youngest coach in the NCAA … And so he did a story in February 1996 called, “Whatever happened to Coach Carpenter?” 

We were interviewed on February 6, 1996, and he put the story out on the CBS affiliate—Coach went through this and that and [this is] where is he now. That story was seen by the editor of the Albuquerque Journal, and a writer from there did a Sunday front-page feature about our story.

Krickitt: That's the big state paper.

Kim: The Journal printed that story and two weeks later we got a call from a man representing a Hollywood research and development firm who asked us if this story was the real deal. We said, “Yeah.” And he said, “I want to release this story … If I do, your life will never be the same. This could be one of the greatest love stories that was ever heard.”

We said we'd pray about it.

He called back and we said that we wanted to release it. “In about 45 minutes,” he said, “you guys are going to start getting phone calls. I highly recommend that you get an agent.”

Eight minutes went by and the first phone call came in from 48 Hours. Then Dateline, 20/20, People magazine … we had 65 interviews in the first three months. We were in New York to LA back to New York, Chicago for Oprah. Inside Edition interviewed us twice and then Japanese television came calling, German TV, Italian radio, Australian radio. It was crazy.

Did you have any desire in your hearts to be famous?

Krickitt: No. We just shared our story and couldn't believe that people were so impressed by it.

Kim: We had almost 200 interviews that first year and then it kind of died down. We signed our movie deal and book deal at that time. We were wrapping up our book in 1999 when we decided to go public that Krickitt was pregnant. We announced it to America on the Leeza Gibbons Show. When we did that, the floodgates were opened.

Regarding the movie, could you tell me a little bit about it as far as the input you were able to have as it was produced?

Kim:  … We weren't happy with the script. … I went crazy over a couple of issues like the divorce in the movie.

Krickitt: And how my parents were represented.

Kim: Krickitt was supposed to be in the movie [she had a cameo] and she pulled out. The movie was going to be rated R. …  I called our agent. …  He went straight to the top.

Krickitt: At the same time I wrote a letter [to the movie producers].

Kim: We got a call an hour after they received the letter and they said, “Let's talk.”

I knew contractually we didn't have anything to stand on. They compromised on several things and were actually concerned about how we felt. [The seventh script was the final version.]

Krickitt: … [My brother] said, “The world's going to love this movie and it will turn people towards your book where the Lord can speak to them in a different way.” (The photo above shows Kim and Krickitt and their children at the premiere with the film's stars, Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams.)

Kim: We had no idea it would be number one in the box office much less in eight other countries. … I was very pleased with what Sony Screen Gems did to help promote our book. … They put the book on The Vow movie site after opening weekend. … In addition to that, they interviewed us for … the DVD and we were able to talk about our faith and the book.

Millions of people have been inspired by the book and movie The Vow. What if God had only used you to reach 600 people?

Kim: It doesn't matter if it's 600 or 600 million or whatever. God had a plan for this. He is using us to glorify Him, which we know is what we are here for. …

There are just all kinds of things through this whole story that illuminate God's hand in it all. It's been so refreshing to be able to see that. Our security guard saw the movie at our premiere and he came up to me crying and said, “I just want to tell you … I'm going to make it right with my wife.”

How does somebody measure whether God uses their story or not?

Krickitt: If we had just spoken at our one little Calvary Chapel … and we ended up living in Las Vegas and we just stayed there, it would have been fine. …  We gave it to Him and trusted Him and I trust God at his Word that He's going to work things for the good. And when you let it go, who knows what He is going to do with it. We definitely never thought it would be this big.

Kim: When we were on the top of the New York Times bestseller list, I noticed that three of the top books were faith-based. I think people are wanting some change. We would have never guessed the Lord would bless us this way. It's His story and He can do with it whatever He wants.

… We come from a family where both sets of parents combined have celebrated more than 100 anniversaries. … I remember telling a guy one day, “You know what's sad, we are getting all of this attention for doing what we said we'd do.”

© 2012 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Listen to the Carpenters tell their story on FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.



Meet the Author: Mary May Larmoyeux

Mary May Larmoyeux is a writer and editor for FamilyLife. She is the author or coauthor of several books including The Grandparent Connection: 365 Ways to Connect With Your Grandchild’s Heart. She and her husband, Jim, have two married children and a growing number of grandchildren.

 

 

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