In brief: Christmas is Hannah’s favourite time. But on Christmas Day her world is blown apart. How can she move on?
The good: Very realistic look at grief.
The not-so-good: It’s not a happy book.
Why I chose it: Enjoyed Fiona McCallum’s other books. Thank you Harlequin for the copy.
Publisher: Harlequin HQ
Setting: Melbourne, Australia and New York City
Rating: 6 out of 10
Finding Hannah is the latest novel from Fiona McCallum. I really enjoyed the Button Jar series and its quiet heroine Emily, so I was looking forward to a new book with a new heroine and setting. Finding Hannah marks somewhat of a departure for McCallum – gone is the rural setting, traded in for the suburbs of Melbourne. It’s also not a happy book, exploring grief in all its ugliness but offers a glimmer of hope at the end in a story which is painful and heart wrenching.
The reader is first introduced Hannah Ainsley at Christmas time. Hannah loves Christmas, it’s the perfect time to be happy with her husband, family and friends. Everything is just right in Hannah’s life, in fact she’s probably a person you could love to hate because she is so perfect! But Hannah’s flawless world falls apart on Christmas Day when she loses her entire family. Her favourite day of the year and favourite people – gone in a second. Naturally, Hannah is upset and inconsolable (and I as the reader felt pretty bad for getting ready to do the love-to-hate-because-you’re-perfect thing). The main plot of the story is Hannah’s grief, how it ebbs and flows and rises up in the most unexpected of places. She has a lot of friends to support her, but grief is never an easy road.
Finding Hannah is a confronting book in the bald exploration into grief. It doesn’t mask anything which sometimes made it hard to read to share in Hannah’s pain. There are of course happy times, in particular towards the end of the book. But overall…it’s cruel I know, but I got a little bored of the grieving process. Knowing that Hannah wasn’t a real person but a character in a book made me hope that some action would occur, something implausibly wonderful would happen, to help Hannah move on. But the bulk of the book is Hannah moving through her grief, becoming sad and teary at inopportune moments as she returns to work, opens the last Christmas presents and goes through the things of her loved ones. It’s true to life, but I was hoping for some more escapism (I can get enough of the reality at work).
The last section of the book I enjoyed more at Hannah felt ready to trying branching out on her own. Her trip was really fun to read about and I felt that the plot moved more quickly and there was a ray of hope. The one thing I thought was a bit weird/clichéd was when Hannah meets an acquaintance at the end in an unexpected place and he (in my opinion) acted really over the top with a rather clichéd/implausible statement. My reaction was run, Hannah, run! It seemed to me like it was way off the tone of the rest of the book and was just…awkward.
Overall, Fiona McCallum explores Hannah’s grief in a sensitive, truthful way. It’s beautifully written and doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of loss. I just wished that there had been a bit more sustenance to buoy me through what is predominantly a very sad story.