2017 Reviews · Australian · contemporary fiction · life lit · women's fiction

Book Review: Finding Hannah by Fiona McCallum

Title: Finding Hannahfinding hannah small.jpg

Author:  Fiona McCallum

Published: March 20th 2017

Publisher: Harlequin Books Australia

Pages: 368

Genres:  Fiction, Contemporary

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 4 stars

A tender story of one woman’s journey through grief, and learning to live life again.

Hannah Ainsley has the perfect life — an adoring husband, a close relationship with her parents, a wonderful job, and amazing friends. Best of all, it’s Christmas — her favourite day of the whole year! It’s a time to share with her family and friends, and enjoy the festivities.

But this year will be like no other. Tragedy strikes and Hannah’s world is shattered. If she’s going to cope, she’s going to need all the support she can gather and draw on every bit of her strength. Life will never be the same again but it’s soon clear she has no alternative but to pull together a future from the remaining fragments. 

As Hannah heads towards the next festive season she will have to make a decision — should she stay with the people who have supported her or should she leave? Could the answer lie in a delayed gift?

Fiona McCallum’s most touching novel so far is a rich tapestry of deep emotions that is sure to capture the hearts of many.

My review:

Established Australian author Fiona McCallum is one of my favourite writers. Finding Hannah is McCallum’s latest release and it marks a departure from her usual rural fiction novels. Finding Hannah is an emotionally moving novel, ideally slotting into the flourishing women’s fiction or life lit genre. It follows the process of grief, after a young woman suffers an immeasurable loss. Finding Hannah is a touching tale that offers the reader a heartfelt sojourn into bereavement, acceptance and rebuilding one’s life after loss.

Hannah Ainsley’s favourite time of the year is Christmas. Hannah is the blessed only child of two loving parents and the wife of an adoring husband. She loves nothing more than cooking up a treat and surrounding herself with her family and friends. All this changes one Christmas day when Hannah receives the most devastating news imaginable. Her life in tatters, Hannah must summon as much strength and willingness to continue living her life as best she can, in the face of deep loss. Drawing on the support of family, friends and colleagues, Hannah slowly works to rebuild her life. Eventually, almost a year passes in Hannah’s fog of grief. Hannah is also faced with a tough decision, should she mark the first anniversary of her loss by spending Christmas at home with the support of those who have stuck by her in the last year, or should she take a journey abroad? The solution to Hannah’s predicament may lie in the revelation of an unexpected gift, which helps to seal Hannah’s fate.

Finding Hannah is an affective piece of fiction. It is great to see Fiona McCallum, an author I have admired for some time, spread her wings a little and move beyond writing rural romance.  By turning her hand to women’s life lit, McCallum has made a bold and successful move. I found Finding Hannah a full bodied narrative, it is also very character driven, offering the reader an examination into the various mental states of a person going through the difficult grief process.

McCallum has taken a topic that most people can relate to, the experience of losing a loved one, as the central theme for her latest novel. The resounding message that I took from reading Finding Hannah is just how distinctive each person’s journey through grief can be. Time also plays an integral role in Finding Hannah. McCallum makes us aware that some instances of bereavement take longer than others to heal. I can definitely see Finding Hannah playing a role in supporting those who have been through loss themselves, hopefully finding some semblance from this book. McCallum’s embracing style of writing easily takes the reader into her fold, through Hannah’s emotional journey and many will find this comforting.

McCallum draws on a different type of setting than her usual country based fare. Melbourne is one of the principal locations of the novel and McCallum does a very fine job of portraying the intrinsic beauty of one of Australia’s main cities. One of the intersecting moments in the novel is Hannah’s journey abroad, which is spurred on by the legacy Hannah’s departed left behind. Linked to this is an interesting touch on the significance of a ladybug, which also appears on the front cover of this book. I liked the way McCallum explored this angle of the story, it was very touching and meaningful. The resulting travel sequences of the book were described perfectly by McCallum. I only wish our protagonist would have stayed longer in her cosmopolitan holiday locale of New York, it certainly strengthened my resolve to visit this city with my husband in the future.

Within the narrative of Finding Hannah, McCallum shows us the extremes of life, the happiness and almost perfection of Hannah Ainsley’s life prior to the Christmas day tragedy. She has a set of supportive parents, a thriving career, a happy marriage, a fine roof over her head and a great set of friends. It all comes crashing down quite dramatically for Hannah. McCallum portrays Hannah’s despair and sadness with a sense of intuition that only someone who has lived through this experience could convey so deftly onto the pages of a novel. McCallum gives us hope through Hannah’s experience and makes us see that it is possible to live again after such a loss. She expresses how it is important to live day by day and that it does take time to adjust to a changed way of life after loss.

Through her supporting characters, McCallum shows how most people rally around the bereaved at a time of loss. There are a handful who do not have the right words to say or choose to distance themselves from this person due to the awkwardness of death. McCallum takes the time to examine this. However, she also explores the people who do matter to Hannah and do everything in their power to support her through her loss. These include her best friend, aunty and the wife of her boss, who ends up becoming a close friend through Hannah’s loss. Each of these characters is endearing and lovingly drawn by McCallum. Hannah was blessed to have these caring people in her life.

Finding Hannah was a stirring and deeply emotional book that provides a searingly honest look at an earth shattering incident of grief, hitting at the very core of a woman who was happily going along with life. It was a novel that impacted me much more than I expected and the prospect of being placed in the same shoes as Hannah petrified me to be honest. However, it is a reality and a life lesson which we follow through with the appealing lead, Hannah. Don’t let Fiona McCallum’s newest novel pass you by, it is McCallum’s most emotionally moving work to date and I hope to see more of this style of fiction from one of my favourite novelists.

Finding Hannah by Fiona McCallum was published on March 20th 2017 by Harlequin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Finding Hannah, Fiona McCallum, visit here.

 

 

 

 

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