Review: The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard

The Mourning HoursA 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.



The Mourning Hours was the second book I began reading at the gym, the first being All for Owen, and I hadn’t quite figured out if it was the gym propelling me to read it so fast, or the story. Half-way through the story I realised it wasn’t the gym compelling me to keep reading. I didn’t go to the gym for over a week and in that time would find myself wanting to put my life on hold to read The Mourning Hours. I found myself waiting at the doctor’s and not wanting to go into my appointment, I found myself semi-relieved when the bus drove past my stop, I found myself wanting to sacrifice my sleep all so I could keep reading.

The main character, Kirsten, has a very compelling voice and I found myself easily falling into the lives and routines of the Hammarstrom family. Fortunately the story, although told from the perspective of Kirsten when she is nine-years-old, wasn’t present tense. I think it wouldn’t have worked quite as well if it had been present tense. While there’s an obvious loss of connection of events and understanding of what’s going on, Kirsten comes across as too mature for a childish narration. Besides, as a reader you can put two-and-two together yourself. When I say obvious loss, it’s not plot holes and jumps between scenes, but the portrayal of a child recounting what she sees.

The story itself turned out to be quite sad. I was deeply affected by it, but didn’t realise how much so until I had finished. Each character is defined and realistically responsive, including third-characters. Their emotions and reactions are easily understood via Kirsten’s story telling and it was difficult not to feel a pang of sympathy for all of them.

Unfortunately I don’t know if I felt the appropriate amount of closure you expect with the ending of The Mourning Hours. I was surprised to a degree, and then was accepting when I thought back, but I wasn’t really sold for it to be the lynchpin for the end of the mystery. Then again, it didn’t take me long to realise the story itself isn’t about the disappearance and the how, but more about family and how it copes when the rug is pulled from under its feet.

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