Sunday, 11 May 2014

Little mercies - Heather Gudenkauf

What the Publisher says about this new title:
In her latest ripped-from-the-headlines tour de force, New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf shows how one small mistake can have life-altering consequences…

Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity—the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children's advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.

Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends' couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen's and Jenny's lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most, and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together.

My thoughts

Heather Gudenkaufs books just get better and better, this one's amazing. She creates complex characters with such competence I can't believe they aren't real people. 

The story is told from two perspectives, that of Ellen  the social worker, her busy personal life as a devoted Mother of 3, whose frantic personal life competes for her time with her beloved career of child care social worker to which she is completely dedicated. Any woman who has juggled home life and career will relate to her sometimes haphazard approach to the breakfast time mayhem as she hurtles out of the door to a job which can frequently contain life and death decisions.

Hardly surprising then that mistakes can be made - but one genuine oversight puts her in a dreadful position she has seen clients in and threatens her role as a mother and her position as social worker I can't imagine how awful this must have been yet I felt every second along with her.

Contrast Ellens mature voice with that of a bewildered yet feisty young girl, Jenny whose situation of sudden homelessness brings her into the periphery of Ellens life and into the care of Maudene and suddenly the two similarly chaotic lives coincide. 

Often feisty young heroines can be a touch annoying, twee or over cute, but Jenny is just right, I loved her, she has had a pretty haphazard upbringing, her Mum abandoning her and left in the care of her hapless yet nevertheless loving Dad who sadly has difficulty enough looking after himself let alone caring properly for a little girl yet she maintains a hopeful optimism which is frequently dashed and an innocence, slightly tarnished but not yet jaded enough to make her cynical.

The story makes you face one of those terrifying "what ifs" which you really never want to contemplate ... how would you cope if everything you loved was at risk of slipping away from you and it was all your fault? How could you live with yourself and what would you do?

There are lots of secondary characters I'd love to know more about - Joe the cop Ellens devoted, platonic friend, and the lovely Maudene too, and I'd so love a hint of what happens afterwards and how the main characters get on in the years following these tragic events.

I read the book avidly 'til late at night and absorbed every word, it was like taking part in an unfolding tragedy I could do nothing about but cheer from the sidelines and hold my breath when things got to their very worst. Fabulous writing from an author who is now one of my very favourites, this book will be enjoyed by anyone who likes Diane Chamberlains writing.  

A huge thanks to Netgalley and Harlequin for supplying me with an advance copy to review, what a privilege and pleasure it was.

This book is due to be published in the UK on 4th July and can be pre-ordered.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your review Jan, I've enjoyed HG's previous books and can't wait to read this one.


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