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The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard

The Mourning Hours is the first novel by Paul Treick DeBoard.  The story opens in the middle of the night on a highway in Wisconsin where Kirsten's on her way home for the first time in years.  While it's not a happy homecoming for Kirsten and her siblings, it will lead to closure, healing and redemption for her family.  This is a story about a missing girl, but its focus is the aftermath of her disappearance on her boyfriend's family and the toll it takes on them as public opinion convicts him as guilty of causing her disappearance.  The other night I had thismuch left of the book to read, and we still didn't know for sure what happened to this girl, and I thought, 'I swear if I get to the end of this book, and we still don't for FOR REAL what happened to this chick, I'm not going to be happy.'  Lucky for you all I was happy with the ending so you don't all have to listen to me gripe about it.

After the story opens in the present, we flashback fifteen years to the year Kirsten was nine, the year everything changed for her, for her family and for their small rural community.  When the disappearance of a local teenage girl, last seen with her boyfriend, who also happens to be Kirsten's brother, in the middle of a snowstorm, tears apart their community and Kirsten's family, forever testing and altering the bonds of the Hammarstrom family.

We begin in the summer when Stacy and Johnny's romance begins as urged on, encouraged and observed by Kirsten who worships Stacy.  However, Stacy isn't exactly welcomed by or approved of by Kirsten's parents or her elder sister.  They all see troubling red flags in Stacy's behavior: she's clingy, obsessive, and she monopolizes Johnny's time, isolating him from his friends whom he no longer has time for and nearly costing him the regional wrestling competition title.

Eventually even Kirsten's eyes are opened to Stacy's faults and the toxicity of her relationship with Johnny--he's stubborn and won't bend while she doesn't know when to stop egging him on.  It's a dangerous combination destined to head for trouble if not tragedy and broken dreams.  When Stacy disappears amid a snowstorm while Johnny makes it home safe, no one knows what happened out there in the night on the road, and no one knows whether they can believe Johnny's story that Stacy took off on her own on foot, and he, instead of following her, took off for home.

In the absence of concrete evidence and a body turning up, the community is convinced that Johnny knows more about Stacy's whereabouts than he's sharing.  As the community steps up its harassment of the Hammarstroms, the tensions within the family cause them to buckle to the stress, the doubt and the uncertainty of the situation.  In the end it's not only Stacy's family that's devastated and destroyed by her disappearance, the Hammarstroms are also forever altered and ultimately estranged.

What happened to Stacy?  Did she run away or was she kidnapped and killed?  Or did Johnny kill her that night?  In the end the answers to these questions are far more devastating both for the twin tragedies of a life cut short and a family ripped apart by the ensuing pressures of doubts and suspicions.  Ultimately, in these answers the Hammarstroms find healing and redemption.

I recommend you check this book out the next time you're at the library.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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