Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What Happened to Hannah by Mary Kay McComas — 352 pgs

When Hannah Benson left her small town twenty years ago, she vowed never to return. Running from terrible abuse and an uncertain fate, Hannah struggled long and hard to create a life of normalcy and independence far away from her horrible origins. But when she gets a call one day telling her that her mother and sister have both died, leaving her sixteen year old niece without a family, Hannah must put aside old demons and painful memories to become the mother of a girl who is just as frightened and confused as she is. Though Hannah tries to kept the secrets of her past buried, her old flame Grady, now sheriff of the town, isn’t just going to let her waltz into town and take charge of her niece. He wants answers about the reasons for her disappearance, and most of all, he wants to let Hannah know that his feelings for her never died. But this old life and the people left in it are almost too much for Hannah to bear, and though she grows increasingly attached to her young niece and dreams of taking her far away to a new life, some of the things she has long kept hidden are starting to work their way out of the cracks and crevices where she once left them buried. Now it’s only a matter of time before Grady gets to the bottom of Hannah’s painful past. Will her memories and past actions turn the town, and most importantly, her niece, against her? In this novel of secret shame and painful reckoning, one woman will confront potent demons and hair raising abuse in order to break the cycle and reclaim a life that she thought she had given up forever.

When I first picked up this book, I had thought I was in for another light women’s fiction read that was heavy on the romance, with a side of drama that would keep me invested in flipping the pages. What I got was much more startling and direct, and in her efforts to create a moving and fluid story, I found that McComas created a vibrant and eclectic set of characters all impacted by the terrible events that happened in their midst twenty long years ago. It was intriguing to watch the layers and layers of secrets peeled back like tissue paper, finally exposing the brutality and fear nestling within. As I grew more and more invested in the book, I came to care for Hannah in an immediate and urgent way.

The Hannah that shows up on these pages is not very much like the Hannah of old. Sure, they were both filled with spunk and fire, but this new Hannah was a lot more vulnerable and fearful about the past that she left behind, and for good reason. When Hannah left town that dark night, she took with her a secret that she went to great lengths to hide, a secret that would change the shape of her future and the people that she left behind. For all her running and removal, Hannah wrestled with herself, both within her heart and mind, against the terrible monstrosity that claimed her that night. This is why the call to come back home so destroys her. Not only is she shielding her mind from the life that she lived, but she has reason to believe that someone else may know just what she did and that her secret may not be safe.

When Hannah first meets her niece, Anna, her namesake, she’s unsure of how to care for the girl, and it’s not a surprise to find that mothering comes hard to her. With the gentle pressure of Anna’s need, Hannah finds her way and begins to form the attachments to family that she never was able to form in the past. A lively group of teenagers, close friends of Anna, are there to provide the social and emotional lubrication in this new and fledgling relationship, and it’s the verisimilitude of the group’s social interactions that uncover pivotal strengths and weaknesses in Hannah’s character. As she grows closer and closer to Anna, she grows more and more fearful of her secrets coming to light, and she realizes that for the two to break away and be free, she must reveal all, much to her terror.

It’s really Grady who sets these events in motion, for his love for Hannah has never abated and he feels more than responsible for the events that lead her away in the night. But he has no idea what really happened. Once a popular rebel, time has brought Grady perspective, and at last he realizes that Hannah can’t slip away again. At times, I felt that he was pushing her too hard and that he was too fierce when it came to uncovering her secret, but Grady was only trying to break down the walls that Hannah put up so that she would finally let him love her. His strength and pushiness was a balm to her wounds, and though he was impatient to get to the bottom of things, his timetable turned out to be right on target. Though Hannah felt him to be pursuing her in more ways than one, what she couldn’t see was that his motive was always his love for her and the blame he shouldered for not protecting her.

This was a rather intense read, which made it all the sweeter when it’s denouement arrived. The force of so many strong willed people in such small confines could have been disastrous, but in this case, it all worked out really well. Character development never took a backseat to plot, and emotion ran high throughout the story. It was the kind of book that left me eager to uncover each development, and McComas had me eating out of her hand from the first paragraph. A lovely read with a lot of heart. Recommended for those who like fiction that’s got a little meat on its bones.

Great news! Mary Kay McComas did a wonderful interview over at Book Club Girl, and if you’d like the chance to check it out, click here!

Author Photo About the Author

Mary Kay McComas started her writing career twenty-five years ago. To date she’s written twenty-one short contemporary romances and five novellas; What Happened to Hannah is her second novel. She was born in Spokane, Washington, and now lives in a small town in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband, three dogs, a cat, and her four children nearby.


TLC Book Tours A warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these other blogs:

Tuesday, February 7th:Life in the Thumb
Wednesday, February 8th:Tina’s Book Reviews
Thursday, February 9th:A Bookish Affair
Monday, February 13th:The Book Bag
Wednesday, February 15th:Jenn’s Bookshelves
Monday, February 20th:Sara’s Organized Chaos
Tuesday, February 21st:Book Hooked Blog
Wednesday, February 22nd:Raging Bibliomania
Thursday, February 23rd:Library of Clean Reads
TBD:A Cozy Reader’s Corner

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.


Jenny said...

Hmm.. I've heard mixed things about this one. But I do like fiction with meat on its bones!! LOL. =) It's always good when an author can make you feel invested in the characters.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Grady sounds like a character I would like!

bermudaonion said...

This sounds pretty intense. It also sounds like it has it all. I love great characters, but I have to have plot. Excellent review!

Jennifer | Mrs Q Book Addict said...

This one does sound heavy, but really interesting. I've just started to enjoyed Women's Fiction, and I will be adding this one to my wishlist. Great reveiew!

Brooke said...

Meaty fiction is really the best kind. Will look further into this one!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Like you, I would think that this would be light women's fiction, but wow! What a change on the overall premise! I won't pass this book by when I see it on the shelf. Thanks for the heads up on this one, Heather!

Ti said...

I read a review the other day of a book that had almost the exact premise of this one, but was a totally different book. I can't remember the name of it though.

How do you have time to read and write so many wonderful reviews? Your reviews are always so thoughtful and always touch on so many different aspects of the novel. By the time I sit down to write, I am only able to recall how I felt while reading the book or very specific points that stood out.

OMG...the word verification is killing me. I can't read it and keep asking for a different combo.

Darlene said...

I really wish I had gotten on this tour now. This book sounds fantastic. I'll have to see if the library will have a copy or not.

Harvee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Harvee said...

I enjoy intense reads every now and then. Glad the ending did the trick for the book! Great review!

Jenners said...

I think I would have expected a fluffier read too. The cover is a bit deceiving I think. Still, intense is what I like in a book sometimes.

Lisa said...

How wonderful when a book surprises you like this one did! I'm going to have to get a hold of this one and look at it for a possible book club choice. Sounds like there's a lot to consider.

Lydia Kang said...

I hadn't heard of this, so I appreciate the review. Thanks!

Unknown said...

I decided not to review this book because I thought it sounded too chick-lit light! Silly me!

Hannah's quite a woman...although I don't know the secret, the magnitude of the pain she's suffered because of what happened would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible for me to return to my hometown no matter what the reason. Grady sounds terrific for Hannah. I wish the book summary hadn't made the story sound like a romance because it's so much more.

You have a knack for picking great books and then writing amazing, thoughtful and captivating reviews! Thank you, Heather!

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Glad you enjoyed this one! Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

Stacy at The Novel Life said...

i love when a book surprises me with more depth than I anticipated - and now you have me dying to know what happened that fateful night...can't you just give a wee hint?!?

ImageNations said...

Great review. Again, the love angle is nice but does not overshadow the story. Now I wish I knew what the secret is. Killed someone?

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