Friday, 7 April 2017

Book Review: FINDING HANNAH by Fiona McCallum


Finding Hannah


Author: Fiona McCallum
Publisher:
Harlequin Australia
Read:
April 2017


Synopsis (Goodreads):

Hannah Ainsley has the perfect life — an adoring husband, a close relationship with her parents, a wonderful job, and amazing friends. Best of all, it's Christmas — her favourite day of the whole year! It's a time to share with her family and friends, and enjoy the festivities.

But this year will be like no other. Tragedy strikes and Hannah's world is shattered. If she's going to cope, she's going to need all the support she can gather and draw on every bit of her strength. Life will never be the same again but it's soon clear she has no alternative but to pull together a future from the remaining fragments.

As Hannah heads towards the next festive season she will have to make a decision — should she stay with the people who have supported her or should she leave? Could the answer lie in a delayed gift?

Fiona McCallum's most touching novel so far is a rich tapestry of deep emotions that is sure to capture the hearts of many.


My thoughts:


Hannah Ainsley loved Christmas. Always had.
She just couldn’t get her head around Christmas not being a huge deal - for anyone.
It was her favourite time of the year, cooking up a storm surrounded by all the people she treasured most in the world, and she wouldn’t have traded this time together for anything. Until tragedy struck one Christmas Day, and Hannah’s whole world fell apart. Christmas – no, her whole life – would never be the same again. How would she find the courage to move forward, when everything she held dear had been taken from her?

Working in an emergency services and hospital setting, I am often present at the scene of tragedy. Knowing that from this day forward, the lives of all people involved will be irrevocably changed, that each step forward will take them into uncharted territory, that they will have to rebuild their lives around the big gaping hole where a loved one used to be. In my job, I don’t allow myself to dwell on this, or I would surely go crazy, but every now and then it is helpful to open that door to confront those locked away emotions to better understand what lays ahead for the survivors of trauma, those who have lost loved ones. It appears that Fiona McCallum is no stranger to grief, sensitively exploring the aftermath of loss in Hannah’s life as she steps forward into a tomorrow that is no longer the safe and secure haven she has known for so long. There are wonderful little nuggets of insight hidden amongst the pages, which everyone who has ever lost a loved one will surely relate to. Other things may seem a bit strange, but such is the nature of grief, no one deals with it in exactly the same way.

She had to start to accept that this was her new normal.

Whilst I loved the delicate way in which McCallum tackles such a difficult and sad topic without sounding too preachy or offering quick fix solutions that don’t ring true, Finding Hannah was a bit of a mixed bag for me. On one hand, every step in Hannah’s journey was realistically and sensitively drawn. However, I did struggle at times to connect with Hannah, and didn’t yet feel invested enough in the characters at the time tragedy struck to really experience their loss or grief.

I am also the first one to admit that with Finding Hannah I totally stepped out of my genre-comfort-zone. Usually I consider myself a committed murder/mystery girl who is somewhat addicted to the adrenaline rushes the genre offers up so generously. As pages and pages went by without much action, I found my constant craving for a plot twist or some unexpected event distracting, as was my disappointment when it was ultimately thwarted. Finding Hannah is a slow, contemplative exploration of grief, of second beginnings, of moving forward after your whole life has irrevocably changed. Not much actually happens. To be honest, at times Hannah’s life struck me as a bit dull, and way too sedate for the early-thirties woman she was supposed to be (the woman has never even been on a plane, for crying out loud!). Even her sixty-something parents, who willingly gave up their driving licences and moved to a retirement village to see out the rest of their days (isn’t sixty the new forty or something???) appeared older than some of my sprightly ninety-something year old patients who still get up every morning to drive the tractor and milk the cows. On the upside, it made my own rather predictable existence appear like an adventure park thrill-ride in comparison! And whilst I love to challenge myself in my reading and venture outside my little genre-kingdom, looking past my Alpine TBR pile of murder and mayhem to explore a deeper, more meaningful side to humanity, I did miss a bit of action. Just a little bit. A conflict, perhaps, an illicit one-night romance, or things that go bump in the night. Just that little sprinkle of spice in the soup that leaves a slight tingle. I just don’t think Hannah was a chilli kind of girl, or one that knew the meaning of the word adrenaline rush. Never mind.

The overall message of Finding Hannah for me was that grief is a very individual experience, one that will confront our worst nightmares and shatter our world. As Hannah encounters various people on her journey, she picks up little nuggets of wisdom from those who have been in her place before, but most of all, the courage to follow her own heart and give herself time to heal. Finding Hannah may offer great comfort to readers who have been on that journey and want some of those feelings validated, or to feel that they are not alone. 

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Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a free ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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