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The Mourning Hours

By Paula Treick Deboard
ISBN: 1501201336
Publisher: Brillance Audio
Publication Date: 10/28/2014 
Format:  Audio
My Rating:  5 Stars 
 
A family's loyalty is put to the ultimate test in this haunting and unforgettable debut.
 
Kirsten Hammarstrom hasn't been home to her tiny corner of rural Wisconsin in years, not since the mysterious disappearance of a local teenage girl rocked the town and shattered her family. Kirsten was just nine years old when Stacy Lemke went missing, and the last person to see her alive was her boyfriend, Johnny, the high school wrestling star and Kirsten's older brother. No one knows what to believe, not even those closest to Johnny, but the event unhinges the quiet farming community and pins Kirsten's family beneath the crushing weight of suspicion.
 
Now, years later, a new tragedy forces Kirsten and her siblings to return home, where they must confront the devastating event that shifted the trajectory of their lives. Tautly written and beautifully evocative, The Mourning Hours is a gripping portrayal of a family straining against extraordinary pressure, and a powerful tale of loyalty, betrayal, and forgiveness. 
 

My Review 

 

The Mourning Hours, another winner by Paula Treick DeBoard!  Set aside the time, as this is a powerful book to read without interruptions.  Coming in audio format 10/28/14. Be sure and check out DeBoard's upcoming novel The Fragile World! 5 Stars, 10/28/14. Two "must read" books, you will not want to miss! 
 
The Mourning Hours, debut novel by Paula Treick DeBoard,will leave you pondering, “If this is a debut, what is yet to come?” After reading this gripping page-turner filled with metaphors, and an advanced reading copy of her upcoming, The Fragile Worldreaders are in for a rare treat! A talented author to follow for years to come; her unique writing style captures you from page one, and never lets go, even after the book ends. What a master storyteller!
 
Both novels, as well as the characters, are so realistic; the slow unraveling of families, caused by grief and tragedy . . . the same could happen to you.How would you react?The book opens with Kirsten Hammarstrom, who resides in California and is on her way home to Wisconsin to her family home, with a lifetime of memories, both good and bad. Before the tragic event and after, when their world as she cherished, comes crumbling down. Somewhere deep inside she has been clutching her childhood in a tight fist, attempting to release and let it go. 
 
One night so long ago, when everything changed for one small town rural family with deep history and roots. A mother, father, son, and daughters, and an entire community. What could have changed the course of the events to follow? 
 
Told from Kirsten’s point of view, flashing back from present to 1994-1995 when she was nine years old. An intuitive and observant little girl, daughter of dairy farmers, loving parents, where life was pretty normal on the farm, from great-great parents passed down. Things were always being born on farms, and always dying. And as for how they came to be in the first place, that was no great mystery. 
 
Kirsten’s brother, Johnny began dating a girl named Stacy in high school. Kirsten thought she was the most beautiful creature. As most teens, they fall in love with hormones raging, and stealing away for private time alone. However, beautiful Stacy, became obsessed with Johnny, the hero at the local high school, a star athlete and wrestling champion, with a bright future ahead of him with scholarships to colleges.
 
His parents and family are so proud of him and his efforts, attending all the games, encouraging him and his efforts. However, Kirsten is intuitive and begins noticing Stacy’s obsession, powerful first love emotions, possessiveness, desperation, and hears their conversations and fights. She is worried, yet she cannot say anything, in order to respect their privacy. She senses something bad will happen, after overhearing the pressure Stacy is putting on her brother. She is innocent and naïve and unsure about all the grown up things of love, relationships, having babies plus more. She wants to tell someone and express her concern; however, at the same time she does not want her brother to think she is spying on him and tattling. 
 
Things gets serious when the parents uncover notes to Johnny from Stacy and other events leading them to be concerned about this relationship. They do not want their son to become distracted by this young woman, as he has a bright future ahead of him.One night, changes everything. Johnny and Stacy set out on a date in a terrible snow storm. When Johnny returns, after the car slides into a ditch, Stacy goes missing. Johnny says she was mad the truck got stuck and decided to walk home and he does the same. As days pass with no new leads, suspicion quickly falls on Johnny, as supportive friends and members of their small community quickly fades. 
 
The Hammarstrom family is caught in the fallout of this ill-fated night, as they support Johnny, but their own doubts about his innocence increase, which divides the family and marriage. What comes next is a full long intense investigation with police, search parties, and a community which believes Johnny is guilty, with no proof. The harassment never lets up, until a teen’s future is destroyed, and family is unraveled piece by piece. Nothing will ever be the same. However, when the siblings return home due to their father’s death, they stumble on answers to the long ago tragedy and the fate of the girl who went missing. Family loyalty is a strong theme in the book, with conflicting feelings of innocence or guilt. A family having spent many lost years apart, before learning the truth. 
 
DeBoard writes from the heart, with flawed characters, vivid settings, real families, emotional subjects, and riveting suspense family drama, grabbing you by the heart strings, as this could be your neighbor, or even you. A powerful account of loyalty, betrayal, and forgiveness.When you begin reading her novel, make sure to set aside the time, as once you begin, you cannot put this story down, until learning the fate of her well-developed lovable characters. As noted at the end in the conversation with the author, she mentions her love of observing things, as reflective throughout the book with Kirsten’s keen observations of her family. 
 
An ideal book for book clubs and discussions with some profound questions included and thoughts regarding the book versus real life situations. How would you react if your child was in a similar relationship? Also small town cultures and how their judgmental views contribute to responses (similar to social media today) and how it can impact lives. What could have changed the events leading up to the ill-fated night?  
 
Each of the characters reacts differently to Stacy’s disappearance and Johnny’s alleged guilt.At the end of the novel, Kirsten puts “an imaginary ear to the ground, listening for the roots of the corn to spread downward” referring to something her grandfather used to do. A great metaphor-profound!
 
You will want to go back to the beginning and read more (as I did), into the dad and grandfather’s wise words in relation to the meaning of tragedies and growing in the soil, while waiting to come to harvest. 
 
“All he could do was tell me to prepare myself, to buck up, to be ready-because the way the world worked, you never could see what was coming."
 
Or can you, if you listen close enough? Or do we choose to ignore the warning signs? When reading the first time you may not realize this impact until your finish the book as how they are related. I loved the innocence of the nine year old voice of Kirsten(brilliant). How she wanted to capture her own family and keep them safe in a jar, like so many parents. Similar to fireflies she captured on summer nights in a jar, which had to be set free – giving profound meaning and depth to the story. 
 
DeBoard’s writing style is unique and powerful and hard to compare to similar authors. However, fans of Diane Chamberlain, Donna Ball and Emilie Richards with the suspense and thrill of Paul Cleave, will appreciate her theme of family, as they are tested and tried through life’s messiness. One of my new favorite authors! 
 
Paula's books are not meant to be just read; Reflective, thought-provoking--characters you will not soon forget, as they live on in your thoughts, long after the book ends! Highly Recommend! 
 
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