The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard ( web | twitter )
Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: disappearance, family dynamics, flashback, small towns
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Summary: When Kirsten is 9 years old, her brother’s girlfriend disappears in a winter storm. Told in flashback, Kirsten relays the events leading up to the start of her brother Johnny’s relationship with Stacy and everything that happened after her disappearance from their cozy small town’s betrayal to her own guilt about never knowing the truth.
Talk about addicting. And also dangerous. I’m pretty sure I didn’t take many breaths at all during my reading of The Mourning Hours (just about a 24-hour period, to be precise).
Paula Treick DeBoard immediately opens The Mourning Hours with a ton of mystery. A young woman is returning home for the first time in a long time; she is nervous and fidgety and when she gets pulled over by a cop for speeding, she is hoping and praying he doesn’t recognize her last name. Before Kirsten reaches her final destination, we are transported many years back to her family’s farm and her 9-year old self.
This year was a complete turning point once her older brother/wrestling team star, Johnny, starts dating Stacy, a well-to-do girl from his high school. At first, Kirsten is totally enchanted by how gorgeous Stacy is, and how in love Johnny and Stacy seem. But, despite her age, Kirsten still sees how her mom is super concerned by how all encompassing their relationship is, how Johnny and Stacy have this electric and kind of scary chemistry when they fight, and Stacy’s tendency to show up everywhere.
When Stacy disappears during a snow storm one night, Johnny is the last person to have seen her and the only person of interest. Kirsten feels guilty because she had seen them fighting earlier but is assured by her aunt that telling the police about that won’t help. In the meantime, the cute little town turns on Johnny and the entire family and things start really falling apart all over the place.
It’s such an interesting choice to give a 9-year old the narrating baton. It’s smart because Kirsten was never going to know everything that was going on (no matter how nosey she was) and she was just too young to understand what was happening in her home. It’s truly heartbreaking to see this family put through the ringer by their own neighbors and each other. I found myself constantly questioning Johnny’s actions: was he innocent or did he really have something to do with Stacy’s disappearance?
THIS was why I had to finish The Mourning Hours as soon as possible. I needed answers. Would we ever know what happened to Stacy? Would we ever hear the full truth from Johnny? DeBoard sets up the Hammarstrom’s as such a solid family unit, and it is so tragic to see how this one event and lack of knowing just how to handle it really changes them. The fact that I couldn’t tell if the parents really believed in Johnny’s innocence also raised the stakes.
DeBoard’s writing is really well-done. She realistically maneuvers her way into the brain of a 9-year-old kid (who just wants her parents to realize all this mayhem is going to make her miss her spelling bee) during this tramatic life event and also does a nice (yet subtle) job of drawing parallels between nature and real life; the importance of the natural order of things on the farm directly relates to the spiraling that occurs after Stacy’s disappearance.
If you are looking for something a little bit different, The Mourning Hours is the way to go.