Wednesday, 2 July 2014
Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf
Publication Date: 4 July 2014
Published by: Harlequin MIRA
Purchase from Amazon
Sometimes, one small mistake can have life-altering consequences...
As a veteran social worker, Ellen Moore has seen it all - the vilest acts one person can commit against another. The only thing that gets her through the workday is knowing her job helps children. That, and her family: her husband, Adam, and three beautiful kids, twins Leah and Lucas, and eleven-month-old Avery. But with a blink of an eye - with one small mistake - Ellen is suddenly at the mercy of the system she works for. Avery is ripped from her clutches, and her whole world begins crashing down around her.
Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but good-for-nothing father since her mother left them. When her father decides to pack their belongings and move to a new state, Jenny thinks she might be on the road to a better life. But soon she finds herself on her own, forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. Evading police and the social system, Jenny finds refuge with a kind-hearted waitress. The last thing she needs is a social worker, but when Ellen and Jenny's lives collide unexpectedly, little do they know just how much they can help one another.
I always get excited when I see a new book coming out by Heather Gudenkauf as I have read all her books to date and loved them. Little Mercies is no exception. I always find her books gripping reads with some serious and sensitive storylines.
If anyone has read the short story Little Lies, you will already have a brief introduction to Ellen Moore who is the main character. If not, don't worry, it is not essential. Ellen is a social worker within children's services which as we can all imagine, leads her to deal with many heartbreaking cases on a daily basis, including having to separate children from their parents.
Ellen is herself married with three young children. Right at the start of the book we get a feel for just how hectic her life is, and just how many balls she is constantly having to juggle to try and stay on top of things. We quickly see the consequences of this when something awful happens which may destroy heir family forever. I don't want to give it away and spoil it for other readers but this major storyline really kept me gripped until the end. I was desperately sad for them and wanted to jump into the book and make them all see sense.
Running alongside this is the secondary plot line which involves Jenny. Jenny is only ten years old and I think it's fair to say that life hasn't been particularly good to her. With an absent Mum and an alcoholic Dad it appeared to me that her life had been a battle. Jenny and her Dad are planning to move but when the police arrest the Dad, Jenny ends up in a bus travelling on her own. When she gets there she is all alone having to fend for herself, until she meets Maudene, a local waitress who comes to Jenny's rescue. Again, I don't want to say too much more as I feel it would ruin the surprises I had in the book and I would hate to ruin it for others.
This book really pulled at my heart strings throughout. I love the character of Ellen and really had the sense of her being an all round good egg. In Little Lies we saw how involved in her social work cases she becomes, and in this book too I felt it came across just how warm and loving she is. She seems to take no satisfaction in making difficult decisions but just wants each child to be happy and safe. It broke my heart when the heartbreaking event occurred in this story, and her nightmares became reality. I really did feel an urge to jump in and protect her and make it all ok.
However, my favourite character is Maudene. She, to me, seemed like an angel. Reading about Jenny's story and her struggles was terrible and I felt I wanted to rescue her so when Maudene came along I was over the moon. One of life's wonderful caring people she took Jenny under her wing and gave her love and care, just what we all want really.
I have admired Heathers work throughout all her books, and with Little Mercies this remained. I love the way she develops characters so that I really sensed who they were and what they were feeling. She doesn't shy away from serious subjects, but writes about them in a sensitive way. I felt such empathy towards them all.
The book is gripping. It captivated me from the start and kept me hooked until the very end. It also played on my heart strings all the way through.
It may sound corny but reading about what horrific events happen to others everyday it has made me thankful for my life and for small mercies.
Thank you to Harlequin MIRA who provided me with a copy of the book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.