I never reviewed books on Amazon.com before I started publishing my own. Now I rate or review every book I read, unless it's not above two stars. I realize some people may just be getting started -- like me. However, you can always find something good to say. I had no trouble finding good things to say about this book, The Mourning Hours, by Paula Treick DeBoard.
We learn about this family from the youngest member, Kirsten. Her father is her idol and she follows him around, doing the farm chores. "Everything you need to know, you can learn on a farm, Kirsten," he said. Next in line, was her teenage brother, Johnny Hammarstrom, a popular student and wrestling star at the local high school. He was on his way to a college scholarship, state championship, and possible Olympic contention when the unthinkable happened.
A tragic disappearance rocks the small town and plunges the Hammarstroms and the family of the missing teenage girl, Stacy Lemke, into grief beyond understanding. Stacy's well-to-do parents are devastated and angry to the point of violence, but the Hammarstroms must deal with grief, doubt, and an isolation only each one of them can understand. Not only are they isolated from the community, but tragically isolated from each other.
Kirsten struggles, as she observes each family member moving through denial and grief. She also must cope with her own doubts. She longs for the aftermath of Stacy's disappearance to subside so they can resume their normal lives. However, Kirsten realizes, normal may never return and they may all have to leave their home to escape the constant reminders of the tragic event.
The characters in this book are well-developed, and you can feel their anguish and the stark landscape that evolves following the tragedy that centers around Johnny. There are twists and turns and ultimately no on knows what to believe as Johnny withdraws from the family into his own reality. The family's loyalty is challenged, and each member reacts in their own way as they struggle to cope with their own doubts and isolation.
This tale is ultimately a story of loyalty, betrayal, and forgiveness. What seems impossible in the beginning has a chance to mend. I highly recommend this novel and The Drowning Girls, also by Paula Treick DeBoard.