Book Review: The Mourning Hours

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A fantastic page-turner! I burned through this in a matter of days, never wanting to put it down. An unforgettable debut, yes, a well stated buzz phrase, but one that is well earned in this instance.

The Mourning Hours is told from the perspective of 9-year-old Kirsten Hammarstrom. After reading Kirsten’s account of the downfall of her family, you’ll wish that every book could be told from her perspective. The Hammarstrom family is in the dairy farming business and it’s something that has been passed down from their great-grandfather, to their grandfather, to their father and next to own it will be Kirsten’s only brother Johnny. Johnny is the all-around-guy, one well liked, super athletic, town superstar- headed to the state championships in wrestling. In short, Johnny has it all going on for himself with wrestling scholarship opportunities pouring in. All of this comes to a screeching halt when Stacy Lemke enters his life.

Kirsten is dazzled by Stacy. Stacy first approaches Kirsten to ask about her brother. She’s bold, beautiful, she talks to Kirsten. Oh she loves her and wants nothing more than for Stacy to become Johnny’s girlfriend. It’s an aspiration held by only one other person – Stacy herself. No one else is as thrilled when their relationship blossoms, and as it develops, even Kirsten begins to see the cracks in Stacy and the relationship she has with her brother.

All of this comes to a head in a cloud of suspicion and doubt for Johnny when Stacy disappears one night following one of their dates, and during a fierce snowstorm. There is only one person suspected, only one logical person to suspect and as time passes with no further developments about Stacy’s disappearance, Johnny becomes the sole suspect by his own family. Things turn so ugly for Johnny and the Hammarstrom family they eventually feel compelled to leave town. Only their father remains. Their once close-knit family unravels to complete ruins.

Years later, the Hammarstrom’s return to their hometown following a tragic death in the family. This will mean the first time the family has come together since that fateful night and time. It will also be a great moment of redemption for this family that was so wrongly cast out.

All along while reading The Mourning Hours there is this fantastic sense of foreboding. You know someone is going to die, you learn fairly quickly who that person will be, you just do not know the what, the why and the how. Even after discovering the who and the potential how, you absolutely cannot tear yourself away from this story because you just want to keep reading to find out what happens!

Kirsten may only be nine but she’s got wicked perspective and throughout this story little pops of poignancy burst through. The cover image for The Mourning Hours is of a glass mason jar. At one point, Kirsten states that if she knew ahead of time what was going to happen to her family, she would have scooped them up and placed them in a jar, like you do the fireflies, to keep them safe. She also referred to the unravelling of her family, the situation they were placed in where family members doubted their own as the “mourning hours”.

As I said above, this was a fantastic page-turner and one that I was sorry to see come to an end. Thank you to Netgalley and Harlequin MIRA for the fantastic opportunity to read The Mourning Hours. A great delight!

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.