REVIEW: THE NIGHT VISITORS, BY CAROL GOODMAN

 

ALICE gets off a bus in the middle of a snowstorm in Delphi, NY. She is fleeing an abusive relationship and desperate to protect…

OREN, ten years old, a major Star Wars fan and wise beyond his years. Though Alice is wary, Oren bonds nearly instantly with…

MATTIE, a social worker in her fifties who lives in an enormous run-down house in the middle of the woods. Mattie lives alone and is always available, and so she is the person the hotline always calls when they need a late-night pickup. And although according to protocol Mattie should take Alice and Oren to a local shelter, instead she brings them home for the night. She has plenty of room, she says. What she doesn’t say is that Oren reminds her of her little brother, who died thirty years ago at the age of ten.

But Mattie isn’t the only one withholding elements of the truth. Alice is keeping her own secrets. And as the snowstorm worsens around them, each woman’s past will prove itself unburied, stirring up threats both within and without.

My Thoughts: I was immediately swept up into the drama of The Night Visitors as Alice and Oren get off the bus and are pulled into the unknown life ahead of them. Fleeing abuse, but not sure who they can trust, Alice braces herself against the challenges ahead.

Alice and Mattie’s stories are told in alternating narratives, and we learn more about their lives and their experiences as their stories unfold.

I could relate to Mattie, having had a career in social work. Her own family life was full of secrets and dark judgments, so I could empathize with how she had struggled.

Alice’s secrets brought darkness into their new lives, and because she wasn’t sure if she could trust Mattie, she almost lost the opportunity to accept the good offered to her.

Mysteries seemed to lurk in the old Victorian house where Mattie offers refuge, and I liked the “ghostly elements” in the story. In the end, I was happy that many of the issues were resolved for the characters. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: IT ENDS WITH US, BY COLLEEN HOOVER

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After her father’s funeral in Plethora, Maine, Lily Bloom is back in Boston, sitting on the rooftop of a neighboring building, pondering the events of the day…and her life.

She realizes that her father, the beloved mayor of the town they lived in, was quite different behind closed doors. So in her eulogy, the audience expected something beautiful, instead of what she gave. She stopped herself from saying five good things about him because she couldn’t think of a single one. He was an abusive husband, and her mother did not leave him.

Now as she sits on the roof, fearing how her mother’s reaction will come down on her, she is distracted by someone else on the roof. A young man, quite handsome, who is kicking and throwing the furniture around, in a rage. They start a conversation which takes up a stretch of time, in which they share “naked truths” with one another. He talks about what made him so angry. A child had died. It turns out he is a resident in neurosurgery at Massachusetts General. His name is Ryle Kincaid.

And then they don’t see each other again for a year.

Narrated in Lily’s first person voice, It Ends with Us brought us fully into her world: her childhood trauma, the dreams she had of a different kind of life, and how she met and fell in love with the homeless boy living in the abandoned house behind their backyard. Lily’s relationship with Atlas Corrigan would fill her thoughts in those days. Her Ellen Diaries, inspired by the Ellen DeGeneres Show, and Lily’s feelings of a strong connection to her, reveal how those “written conversations” might have possibly kept her intact emotionally during some tough times. In the diaries, she also describes the unfolding friendship with Atlas. And how it all fell apart.

How do Ryle and Lily reconnect? Does she see Atlas again, and under what circumstances? Who is the rich young woman who befriends her just as she is opening her own flower shop? What happens that triggers a series of events that will derail lives? How does Lily eventually make the right decision for herself?

Sometimes a person has to make a choice that feels wrong when it is the only right thing to do. A beautifully sad and inspirational story about breaking cycles, making hard choices, and loving the one you are meant to be with, even when someone else is also the love of your life. I cried at the end of this book, even as I applauded the course of events that unfolded.

Rating:  cropped again 5

REVIEW: I LET YOU GO, BY CLAIRE MACKINTOSH

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A rainy night, a moment that will change everything, and a child slips from his mother’s grasp, careening into the road and the pathway of a car. A car moving too fast, a car that does not stop.

Little Jacob Jordan’s death from that hit and run accident would change many lives. Our story begins with the mother’s narrative; the unnamed mother, at least in the beginning.

We then watch the journey, in the first person narrative, of a young woman named Jenna Gray, who seems to be running from something. Is she the mother? Or is she the hit and run driver? Why is she so frightened all the time?

There are numerous points along the way when I knew that nothing about I Let You Go was simple. The case has gone cold, and more than a year has passed, when some evidence comes to light. What will happen, and who will the police bring in for questioning. Who will be accused?

Meanwhile, even after the police believe they have the culprit, a new narrative appears, a first person voice that seems chilling, one that hints at much more to the story. The voice belongs to a man called Ian Peterson, and he seems to be addressing a “you” who turns out to be Jennifer/Jenna.

Themes of violence, loss, secrets, betrayals, and domestic violence add many layers to a story which is now a lot more complex than we originally believed.

I also enjoyed the sections involving the police inspectors. Ray and Kate became familiar to this reader, and I liked glimpsing their personal lives and seeing how they arrived at their conclusions. How, in the last possible moments, they figured out what information had been missing all along.

A chilling and dramatic conclusion left me holding my breath until the final page…and even then, I wasn’t sure that something dark would not appear at the last second. 5 stars.

REVIEW: HUSH LITTLE BABY, BY SUZANNE REDFEARN

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They looked like the perfect family. Gordon, a police officer, Jillian, an architect, with two beautiful children, Drew, 8, and Addie, 4: they all live in a gorgeous home in the upscale community of Laguna Beach. But behind closed doors, havoc reigns. For nine years, Jillian has suffered abuse, fear, and the threat of escalating violence at the hands of her husband Gordon.

But nobody would believe her even if she did tell. Which is why Jillian does the unthinkable one day. She grabs the kids and runs.

In the suspenseful page-turning Hush Little Baby, the reader is reeled into the kind of existence that only an abuse victim lives with everyday, and as the story unfolds, we come to realize that there will be only one kind of conclusion: one of the two, either Gordon or Jillian, will end up dead.

Themes of domestic violence and the kind of family dysfunction that allows it to flourish are at the core of this story that will appeal to anyone who has ever lived it, as well as those who have worked to help change things for victims.

There were times that I shook my head at the poor choices made by the characters, even Jillian, who kept staying long after she should have. But all of these behaviors are completely understandable when one considers the options available. 4.5 stars.