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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 ali 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.


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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 ali 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.

30 review for The Mourning Hours

  1. 5 out of 5

    ☮Karen

    A very good story about coming of age in rural Wisconsin, only with the added challenge of having your older brother accused in the disappearance of his girlfriend. If that doesn't make life almost impossible in a small town! The unraveling of the mystery held me in its grip, and there's a satisfying ending/resolution. Can't ask for much more.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I could not put this book down. I started reading it at 11:00 pm last night, read until 1:00 am, when I forced myself to stop reading and go bed, since I had to work in the morning. When I got up, I picked it right back up and kept reading as I brushed my teeth, did my hair, and got ready for the day. When I left for work, I popped my iPad into my bag, so I could read at work. I actually reviewed my morning in my mind on the way there, trying to figure out if I would have time. I read it here an I could not put this book down. I started reading it at 11:00 pm last night, read until 1:00 am, when I forced myself to stop reading and go bed, since I had to work in the morning. When I got up, I picked it right back up and kept reading as I brushed my teeth, did my hair, and got ready for the day. When I left for work, I popped my iPad into my bag, so I could read at work. I actually reviewed my morning in my mind on the way there, trying to figure out if I would have time. I read it here and there, and then finished on my lunch break. The story was riveting, the language and writing evocative. This book was gripping, suspenseful, a real page turner. I don't want to give much away - I will say that I when I started I just had to read until I found out just what happened, what was the big thing the characters were alluding to, that the reader felt coming from the very beginning. Situations build with tension, you can feel it like a rope being pulled taut that you know is going to snap sometime soon. And this is mostly from the point of view of a 4th grader, at least 75% of the book is through the eyes of Kirsten as a child. You would think things would get lost, that you wouldn't get the full picture, but DeBoard writes the story so that you get just enough, the right enough, that you understand the situation even though Kirsten may not. This book reminded me a bit of Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, and of We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates. Especially the Mulvaneys, although the ending in The Mourning Hours doesn't leave you feeling like you were hit by a truck, unlike all Oates books. It is a story of how loyalty can be tested, even with your family that you love like your ownself - you may think that you would stand by a brother or a sister, a mother or a father, no matter what, when the chips are down and you are all at the lowest point you can go, but you never really know what will happen if you were in that situation. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves a good suspense thriller book. But be prepared - once you start reading it you can't stop, so clear your calendar first!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    Thank you Goodreads for delivering into my hands a book I could not put down! Even thoughThe Mourning Hours is published by Harlequin it definitely is not a romance novel! Simple plot line... popular and athletic high school boy meets girl, boy dates and falls in love with girl, girl goes missing. The story is set in the small Wisconsin town of Wantankee. It is a safe and quiet town where everybody knows everybody. The story is narrated by 9 year old Kirsten, the sister of Johnny who is under su Thank you Goodreads for delivering into my hands a book I could not put down! Even thoughThe Mourning Hours is published by Harlequin it definitely is not a romance novel! Simple plot line... popular and athletic high school boy meets girl, boy dates and falls in love with girl, girl goes missing. The story is set in the small Wisconsin town of Wantankee. It is a safe and quiet town where everybody knows everybody. The story is narrated by 9 year old Kirsten, the sister of Johnny who is under suspicion for the disappearance of his girlfriend. The story begins in the present where a much older Kirsten is returning home after a new tragedy occurs. I thought this novel was beautifully written and very intriguing. Family loyalty, love, and forgiveness are all portrayed. As the family starts to crumble under all the accusations and pressure each person handles the situation differently. The author does a good job in making the reader sympathize with each family member. Even though there are a few little twists in the story I did have the ending figured out which is rare for me! ( Well maybe i wasn't 100% sure!) Really good book and well worth the read. I recommend!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Judy D Collins

    The Mourning Hours, another winner by Paula Treick DeBoard! Set aside the time - a powerful book to read without interruptions. The novel will leave you pondering, “If this is a debut, what is yet to come?” After reading this gripping page-turner filled with metaphors, and an advanced reading copy of her upcoming, The Fragile World, readers are in for a rare treat! A talented author to follow for years to come; her unique writing style captures you from page one, and never lets go, even after The Mourning Hours, another winner by Paula Treick DeBoard! Set aside the time - a powerful book to read without interruptions. The novel will leave you pondering, “If this is a debut, what is yet to come?” After reading this gripping page-turner filled with metaphors, and an advanced reading copy of her upcoming, The Fragile World, readers are in for a rare treat! A talented author to follow for years to come; her unique writing style captures you from page one, and never lets go, even after the book ends. What a master storyteller! Both novels, as well as the characters, are so realistic; the slow unraveling of families, caused by grief and tragedy . . . the same could happen to you. How would you react? The book opens with Kirsten Hammarstrom, who resides in California and is on her way home to Wisconsin to her family home, with a lifetime of memories, both good and bad. Before the tragic event and after, when their world as she cherished, comes crumbling down. Somewhere deep inside she has been clutching her childhood in a tight fist, attempting to release and let it go. One night so long ago, when everything changed for one small town rural family with deep history and roots. A mother, father, son, and daughters, and an entire community. What could have changed the course of the events to follow? Told from Kirsten’s point of view, flashing back from present to 1994-1995 when she was nine years old. An intuitive and observant little girl, daughter of dairy farmers, loving parents, where life was pretty normal on the farm, from great-great parents passed down. Things were always being born on farms, and always dying. And as for how they came to be in the first place, that was no great mystery. Kirsten’s brother, Johnny began dating a girl named Stacy in high school. Kirsten thought she was the most beautiful creature. As most teens, they fall in love with hormones raging, and stealing away for private time alone. However, beautiful Stacy, became obsessed with Johnny, the hero at the local high school, a star athlete and wrestling champion, with a bright future ahead of him with scholarships to colleges. His parents and family are so proud of him and his efforts, attending all the games, encouraging him and his efforts. However, Kirsten is intuitive and begins noticing Stacy’s obsession, powerful first love emotions, possessiveness, desperation, and hears their conversations and fights. She is worried, yet she cannot say anything, to respect their privacy. She senses something terrible will happen, after overhearing the pressure Stacy is putting on her brother. She is innocent and naïve and unsure about all the grown-up things of love, relationships, having babies plus more. She wants to tell someone and express her concern; however, at the same time, she does not want her brother to think she is spying on him and tattling. Things gets serious when the parents uncover notes to Johnny from Stacy and other events leading them to be concerned about this relationship. They do not want their son to become distracted by this young woman, as he has a bright future ahead of him. One night, changes everything. Johnny and Stacy set out on a date in a terrible snow storm. When Johnny returns, after the car slides into a ditch, Stacy goes missing. Johnny says she was mad the truck got stuck and decided to walk home and he does the same. As days pass with no new leads, suspicion quickly falls on Johnny, as supportive friends and members of their small community quickly fades. The Hammarstrom family is caught in the fallout of this ill-fated night, as they support Johnny, but their own doubts about his innocence increase, which divides the family and marriage. What comes next is a full long intense investigation with police, search parties, and a community which believes Johnny is guilty, with no proof. The harassment never lets up, until a teen’s future is destroyed, and family is unraveled piece by piece. Nothing will ever be the same. However, when the siblings return home due to their father’s death, they stumble on answers to the long-ago tragedy and the fate of the girl who went missing. Family loyalty is a strong theme in the book, with conflicting feelings of innocence or guilt. A family having spent many lost years apart, before learning the truth. DeBoard writes from the heart, with flawed characters, vivid settings, real families, emotional subjects, and riveting suspense family drama, grabbing you by the heartstrings, as this could be your neighbor, or even you. A powerful account of loyalty, betrayal, and forgiveness. When you begin reading her novel, make sure to set aside the time, as once you begin, you cannot put this story down, until learning the fate of her well-developed lovable characters. As noted at the end in the conversation with the author, she mentions her love of observing things, as reflective throughout the book with Kirsten’s keen observations of her family. An ideal book for book clubs and discussions with some profound questions included and thoughts regarding the book versus real-life situations. How would you react if your child was in a similar relationship? Also small town cultures and how their judgmental views contribute to responses (similar to social media today) and how it can impact lives. What could have changed the events leading up to the ill-fated night? Each of the characters reacts differently to Stacy’s disappearance and Johnny’s alleged guilt. At the end of the novel, Kirsten puts “an imaginary ear to the ground, listening for the roots of the corn to spread downward” referring to something her grandfather used to do. A great metaphor-profound! You will want to go back to the beginning and read more (as I did), into the dad and grandfather’s wise words in relation to the meaning of tragedies and growing in the soil, while waiting to come to harvest. “All he could do was tell me to prepare myself, to buck up, to be ready-because the way the world worked, you never could see what was coming." Or can you, if you listen close enough? Or do we choose to ignore the warning signs? When reading the first time you may not realize this impact until your finish the book as how they are related. I loved the innocence of the nine year old voice of Kirsten (brilliant). How she wanted to capture her own family and keep them safe in a jar, like so many parents. Similar to fireflies she captured on summer nights in a jar, which had to be set free – giving profound meaning and depth to the story. DeBoard’s writing style is unique and powerful and hard to compare to similar authors. However, fans of Diane Chamberlain and Jodi Picoult will appreciate her theme of family, as they are tested and tried through life’s messiness. One of my new favorite authors! Paula's books are not meant to be just read; Reflective, thought-provoking--characters you will not soon forget, as they live on in your thoughts, long after the book ends! Highly Recommend! JDCMustReadBooks Top Books of 2013: The Mourning Hours Top Books of 2014: The Fragile World Top Books of 2016: The Drowning Girls

  5. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

    More like 3.5 stars. I thought "The Mourning Hours" was well-written and I liked the protagonist, Kirsten but overall, I felt like the plot dragged along more than was necessary. I guess my expectations for this book were a little too high based on all the positive reviews. Parts of the story were interesting, and some parts were kind of boring/repetitive. It's a mixed bag for me. :(

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    LOVED IT! I might not had read this book -had it not been for the strong recommendation from my GR's friend (we both tend to love these types of books). MOST my woman friends will 'cozy-up' into this 'CAN'T-PUT-DOWN-PAPERBACK', and enjoy it fully!!! I was lucky to find it for a dollar at my favorite 'thrift' shop. I'll pass it on to Kim at the gym. (she'll eat it up). It could be said: "The Morning Hours", has a "Lifetime Movie" feeling to it, but, I enjoy select movies made for "Lifetime". Just LOVED IT! I might not had read this book -had it not been for the strong recommendation from my GR's friend (we both tend to love these types of books). MOST my woman friends will 'cozy-up' into this 'CAN'T-PUT-DOWN-PAPERBACK', and enjoy it fully!!! I was lucky to find it for a dollar at my favorite 'thrift' shop. I'll pass it on to Kim at the gym. (she'll eat it up). It could be said: "The Morning Hours", has a "Lifetime Movie" feeling to it, but, I enjoy select movies made for "Lifetime". Just recently I read 'another' book in which I DID NOT see 'the twist' [Someone else's love Story, by Joshilyn Jackson] --- In this story I actually had a pretty strong hunch about the ending (not 100% of course) --but pretty strong --from early on. (but to be fair --I was looking for it --which was fun in itself). Did I cry? I didn't --yet its a sad story -- A story in which reminds me of things in my own family --(the sad parts of being disconnected). Many families feel responsible to call home for birthdays -holidays, yet --family members really are not deeply-connecting (sharing their lives together) --- A tragedy does not even have to happen to disconnect family members -- A common theme --a little sad! Yet--sometimes these types of families will have an extraordinary re-connect also. (authentic healing) I 'did' get a 'little' teary in ONE SENTENCE. I doubt others reader would --but it felt 'personal' to me ... (page 281): "They had come to visit me twice since I moved to Berkeley, sleeping head-to-toe on the couch in my apartment". THAT's it!!!!! (my teary eyes). :) WONDERFUL new author!!!!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rand

    Holy shit, I just gobbled up the first Harlequin book I ever picked up. Gobbled as in: I began this book less than twenty four hours ago and now there is no more book to be read because all its pages have passed below my gullet, washed down with giblet gravy and cranberry relish. And now I sit gluttonous, drunk on misplaced tragedy and shame in a fictional small town—slovenly at not having milked the cows or fed the chickens or, worse: dumbstruck at being unable to hear the corn grow. Were we eve Holy shit, I just gobbled up the first Harlequin book I ever picked up. Gobbled as in: I began this book less than twenty four hours ago and now there is no more book to be read because all its pages have passed below my gullet, washed down with giblet gravy and cranberry relish. And now I sit gluttonous, drunk on misplaced tragedy and shame in a fictional small town—slovenly at not having milked the cows or fed the chickens or, worse: dumbstruck at being unable to hear the corn grow. Were we ever really children, were we ever really pure? Or does the 24-hour news media, with its salacious focus on the latest mystery or scandal forestall all pretense to innocence? I did not plan on liking this book. I did not even plan on reading this book, for fuck's sake. What happened was this: the latest high-brow, stilted experimental pap which I've conditioned my self to seek out and hang my hat upon had no hook for my hat and that left me seeking a STORY, the sort with that strong narrative flow you can lose your self in for a few hours. So I turned to an other in the pile on the nightstand and plucked this tawdry tale from the slush (graciously provided via the GoodReads First Reads program, natch) and all thought of the oblivion of sleep was sucked from my eyes before the prologue was done, my brain turned off and entered the STORY, emoting in a wet hot mess, stopping only to shower off and then go at it again. The time before the last time I sought the sheer oblivion of straight-no-chaser narration was not so pleasant; there were very few moments in which I did wrestle with doubt as the brief chapters kept me rapt. There's a lot that can be said on rubbernecking. As much as I like to think that I try to avoid the "news" and its latest resplendence of tragedy and domestic misery, I am not immune to such allures. DeBoard's novel masterfully played upon this desire TO KNOW what and how happened to a family of strangers beset upon by a small town's hapless police force and suspicious minds, all in a time prior to the Lifetime channel. (non-representative quote: I watched Mom watch herself from between her spread fingers, as if she was peeping at a horror show.) But as I rounded out on the last third of the novel, the realization that I did not truly need to know hit and I was washed over by the lush pastoral descriptions and longing for the rural upbringing I never had. That the narrator (as an adult—much of the narration is done as a recollection of her 9 year old self) is a graduate student in cultural geography all the more solidified this book's sense of place, in both its fictional small town in Wisconsin and my heart.

  8. 4 out of 5

    James Calvin

    If a new novel acknowledges you in the preface, if it’s by a former student, if it mentions, at the outset, a town named Oostburg, Wisconsin, my home town, then what’s not to like, right? The Mourning Hours, a first novel from Paula Treick DeBoard, hits all those notes, so you can take almost everything I say as the braying of a grandpa or some other privileged relative. Her novel is a wild page-turner, a mystery, sort of, a story that uses a ton of domestic realism and features the thoughtful mem If a new novel acknowledges you in the preface, if it’s by a former student, if it mentions, at the outset, a town named Oostburg, Wisconsin, my home town, then what’s not to like, right? The Mourning Hours, a first novel from Paula Treick DeBoard, hits all those notes, so you can take almost everything I say as the braying of a grandpa or some other privileged relative. Her novel is a wild page-turner, a mystery, sort of, a story that uses a ton of domestic realism and features the thoughtful memories of a young woman named Kirsten, who once upon a time watched her Wisconsin farm family disintegrate under self-inflicted guilt and the disapproving eyes of a community that turned their back on them in a time of dire need. What it doesn’t tell you until the end—and what I’m not going to—is exactly what happened one night when Kirsten’s brother Johnny, a high school wrestling star, came home from a date that crashed, as did he in his truck, in the middle of a snowstorm. He and his girlfriend Stacy, a pushy young lady if there ever was one, got into a spat right there in the ditch, he claimed, and, ticked off, started walking home. There was a snowstorm, and somehow she never made it. What honestly did happen that fateful night, as they say, is the goods the novel withholds. Instead, Ms. DeBoard watches a family disintegrate under the dishonor they sustain from what amounts to a mob rising perilously in the neighborhood, as well as their own inability to believe that son Johnny could possibly be as innocent as he claims. What you watch, sometimes very painfully, is a family imploding, basically, from cataclysmic self-doubt. I’m not a really good reader. It takes something to engage me fully, but The Mourning Hours is a novel you can’t put down, even though it has little in the way of action/adventure. The publisher, oddly enough, is Harlequin. I’ll admit it—I was expecting some kind of romance, even though my memory of Paula Treick as a student doesn’t include a penchant for rampant passion on the edge of some sandstone cliff. And it isn’t. There’s no romance in the novel. Even the high school love at the heart of things is not only woeful but doubtful. What the novel is, is visual, remarkably and thoughtfully visual. You see what’s going on. Paula’s eye is her great strength. The Mourning Hours brings you in because the author sees what she’s describing. She’s an accomplished writer. Truth be told, I remember her strengths, even though she occupied a memorable place in my classroom some time ago. I don’t know what Paula thinks these days about feminism, but, other than Kristen the narrator, she spares nothing on her major female characters. I hesitate to use the b-word, but if I were given to say such things, I’ll readily admit both Johnny’s mother or his girl earn the title. His mother has something of a reason to go off the deep end; she tries to wage a fiery defense of her boy when a cheesehead lynch mob turns on them horridly. Stacy is as assertive as some pulling guard from the Packers' offensive line. What Johnny sees in her—sans sex—is something no one else does, save Kirsten, who, as a little girl, basically worships her as if she were Barbie. And I do wish Paula would have given us a clearer Johnny. She’s got her reasons to keep him out of focus; after all, Kirsten is a kid when he’s already 17. She’s only beginning to understand character. But the novel is a reminiscence and not a diary, a plot line bookended by a “years later” story. We don’t really know much about Johnny, and he is at the very heart of things. Character sometimes gets a little flattened, I think, by the desire to keep readers turning pages. But I really loved reading the novel—yes, maybe for reasons that go beyond the story itself. Paula is still, after a fashion, one of my students; and, yes, she’s telling stories on my own home turf. And I admit it--I had great trouble putting it down. She did wonderfully on this, her first. I promise to read everything she writes. Another, I hear, is in the works. Great summer reading, methinks. And pardon the braying.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I enjoyed reading this novel, and while there were several things I liked about it, there were a few aspects (one of them the ending) that I thought could have been much better. The evolution of Kirsten's perspective, from a naive kid to an individual whose life would never be the same, was handled very well by the author. And, the story clearly illustrates the impact of a tragedy on both an individual family and a small, close-knit community. The disappointments in this book for me were that so I enjoyed reading this novel, and while there were several things I liked about it, there were a few aspects (one of them the ending) that I thought could have been much better. The evolution of Kirsten's perspective, from a naive kid to an individual whose life would never be the same, was handled very well by the author. And, the story clearly illustrates the impact of a tragedy on both an individual family and a small, close-knit community. The disappointments in this book for me were that some of the characters were too superficially treated, that at times the writing got a bit stale, and that the ending was incredibly rushed. Emilie could have been developed more, rather than being cast in such a stereotypical teenage manner. Rich, beautiful, unstable Stacy and sports hero Johnny, the central figures in the drama, skirted the edges more than I would have liked and it would have been interesting to have seen more of them alone, to figure out what really drew them to one another with such force. Regarding the writing, how many times would Dad "clap Jerry Warczak on the shoulder" or Mom appear tense in Stacy's presence or Aunt Julia light up a cigarette? Some of this was just too basic for my preference. Lastly, the ending. After waiting throughout the entire story to find out what really happened, once Kirsten has decided not to let Stacy's disappearance rule her life anymore, the truth comes out...in such a rush that I had to reread it a few times to make sure I didn't miss anything. And the explanation "I always just wanted what you had, Kirsten" really wasn't enough for me. Jerry so badly wanted to have a family of his own that he...murdered his neighbor's son's girlfriend? I really had to shake my head at that, wondering if there wasn't an extra part of the story that was missing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    tara garcia

    I loved this book. I fell in love with the characters... I was there with them. Every step of their journey. My heart ached with them. They will stay with me. I want to read more from this author. More. More. More. This book will stay with me. And... I think more books should be told by a fourth grader. It absolutely worked! Brilliantly worked.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mary Kubica

    I just finished The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard and thoroughly enjoyed it! The writing kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. DeBoard's character development is near flawless, especially that of our young narrator who brings us along on the journey of a small town Wisconsin mystery, and the effect it has on one close-knit family. I truly could not have predicted the outcome and was still guessing right up until the very last pages of the book. An excellent debut by a wonderful new I just finished The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard and thoroughly enjoyed it! The writing kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. DeBoard's character development is near flawless, especially that of our young narrator who brings us along on the journey of a small town Wisconsin mystery, and the effect it has on one close-knit family. I truly could not have predicted the outcome and was still guessing right up until the very last pages of the book. An excellent debut by a wonderful new author!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    This book got a lot of excellent ratings from others. Hmmm. This was a tragic story, almost entirely narrated by a nine year old girl, which made it a little haunting. I was expecting more mystery and less tragedy. I enjoyed this and found it readable but it didn't blow me away. A very good debut though.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sheri

    This book is really a 2.5 star. It was a solid 3 star until the last 50 pages or so and then everything wrapped up too nicely for my taste. There is nothing very profound here, it is simply an easy read. The story is pretty compelling and seems to ask the question: "do we really know those we love?" or "do we really know those with whom we live?" It is well enough done and reminds me of something Jodi Picoult would have written, but I was very upset that the end had to solve the mystery. I think This book is really a 2.5 star. It was a solid 3 star until the last 50 pages or so and then everything wrapped up too nicely for my taste. There is nothing very profound here, it is simply an easy read. The story is pretty compelling and seems to ask the question: "do we really know those we love?" or "do we really know those with whom we live?" It is well enough done and reminds me of something Jodi Picoult would have written, but I was very upset that the end had to solve the mystery. I think watching the family forgive/love Johnny without resolution would have been a much more powerful choice. There were a few minor things that annoyed me. When Stacy first came over on a wrestling night, Johnny had to introduce her around. Again, at Stacy's birthday introductions were done. And yet, she went to high school with the boys and the town is small enough that after the night of the snow storm everyone is in everyone's business. It just felt like DeBoard forgot how small the town was when she wanted to introduce people to the reader, but belabored the point when it was convenient for the story. At times the writing was trite ("if they were cookies they would have come out fro practically the same cutter") and at others it was melodramatic ("would she really kill herself if she couldn't see him every day?"). I was also unsure about Kirsten's ability as a narrator. She is nine years old for most of the story and just like with introductions, it seemed that DeBoard made Kirsten precocious and bright when it was convenient and overemphasized Kirsten's innocence when it wasn't. Overall, it is nothing special. Fairly entertaining and a page turning read, but not any great commentary. It is just a decent story.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Janet Robel

    Good mystery! I had absolutely no idea what happened to Stacy Lemke and was surprised at the outcome.

  15. 4 out of 5

    KJ

    Whoa... I don't know what else to say. I really don't. I just finished it and I must say I am blown away. But let me start from the beginning. I won this book on a giveaway and eagerly awaited receiving it. As soon as I did I started reading. At first I thought the book was good, it kind of dragged on at times, but I understood what was said needed to be said. Then it seemed like the main character was going to be young for the entire novel, when the back led me to believe that it would be more r Whoa... I don't know what else to say. I really don't. I just finished it and I must say I am blown away. But let me start from the beginning. I won this book on a giveaway and eagerly awaited receiving it. As soon as I did I started reading. At first I thought the book was good, it kind of dragged on at times, but I understood what was said needed to be said. Then it seemed like the main character was going to be young for the entire novel, when the back led me to believe that it would be more revolved around them when they are older. Then, things got crazy. The book turned back to them being older just in time. I got interested in what was happening again and read eagerly again. Then the mystery unravels and I will honestly say, this book had one of the most mind boggling endings I have ever read. I can usually see an ending coming when watching movies, tv shows, and reading books which often takes the fun out of it. However, with this ending my jaw dropped and I little said "holy crap" out loud. The ending of this book goes as one of my favorite endings of a book of all time. I recommend this book to literally anyone! If you get bored in the dragging on, just trudge through knowing that the ending will leave you speechless.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Don't you just love a book that you can't put down? The Mourning Hours was one such book for this reader. First, this tale is set in Wisconsin. I happen to be a very proud Wisconsinite and I'm always thrilled when my home state is featured in a book. The Mourning Hours depicted the small town feel of rural Wisconsin life very accurately. Second, the suspense was done remarkably well. DeBoard reeled me in deliberately and thoroughly. The events of one snowy evening changed the Hammarstrom family f Don't you just love a book that you can't put down? The Mourning Hours was one such book for this reader. First, this tale is set in Wisconsin. I happen to be a very proud Wisconsinite and I'm always thrilled when my home state is featured in a book. The Mourning Hours depicted the small town feel of rural Wisconsin life very accurately. Second, the suspense was done remarkably well. DeBoard reeled me in deliberately and thoroughly. The events of one snowy evening changed the Hammarstrom family forever and I found myself racing through the pages to find out exactly what happened. I heartily urge you to read this tightly woven story. You won't be disappointed.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carmen Blankenship

    This book had me at the edge of my bus seat on my long commute home. The pace was super speed and I enjoyed the ride. So many times I asked myself what I would do in this situation. It's almost as if the author lived this. I won't rehash the story. It's about a family that is struck by a tragedy that happens more than anyone wants to admit to. The ending...... I didn't see it coming and I ALWAYS see it coming. Great book, you will not regret hitting that buy with one click button. I promise.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I wanted to like this book. I really, really did. It's clear from the back cover what's going to happen but of course I wanted all the details of the how and why. I think my mistake is that what I really wanted was a mystery novel and this isn't that. It's a thoughtful, beautifully written description of the downfall of her family from the mind of a child. The writing is gorgeous and I can feel the emotions just pouring out of Kirsten at times. There's quite a bit of buildup to the night Stacy d I wanted to like this book. I really, really did. It's clear from the back cover what's going to happen but of course I wanted all the details of the how and why. I think my mistake is that what I really wanted was a mystery novel and this isn't that. It's a thoughtful, beautifully written description of the downfall of her family from the mind of a child. The writing is gorgeous and I can feel the emotions just pouring out of Kirsten at times. There's quite a bit of buildup to the night Stacy disappears which shows the small little rips in the relationships between family members and then in one abrupt, painful slice they are torn apart. What follows from the eyes of Kirsten is tough. She's so young, confused and scared, but the adults around her are equally so. As we pick up in later years as the family gathers together once again suddenly the mystery of Stacy is solved in one quick breath. All of the destruction of the family for what? I wanted my mystery and whodunit but when it happened I found it unfulfilling, disappointing and rushed. This one simply wasn't for me. I received this book thanks to Amazon Vine.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    When Kirsten was nine years old, her brother Johnny's sixteen year old girlfriend Stacy, disappears after a date with Johnny. This is a book, set in Wisconsin on a farm, with a close knit family full of love, everything wasn't perfect but they were together, until this tragedy. Johnny comes under suspicion, not only by the police, but the whole town judges him guilty. This is a very touching and heartbreaking novel, showing how judgmental people can be, how a tragedy like this effects a whole fa When Kirsten was nine years old, her brother Johnny's sixteen year old girlfriend Stacy, disappears after a date with Johnny. This is a book, set in Wisconsin on a farm, with a close knit family full of love, everything wasn't perfect but they were together, until this tragedy. Johnny comes under suspicion, not only by the police, but the whole town judges him guilty. This is a very touching and heartbreaking novel, showing how judgmental people can be, how a tragedy like this effects a whole family, disintegrating the family unit and leaving them with few choices. A first novel, it was incredibly thought provoking, how does one ever overcome something like this? Narrated by Kirsten, everything is filtered through her lens as we watch a family fall apart. Years later they are reunited on the farm because of another tragedy. Here they must all take stock of their lives a figure out how to reconnect. Is Stacey ever found? Well you will just have to read the book to find that out.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Eustacia Tan

    Wait, is this book seriously from Harlequin? I'm sorry, but I've always associated Harlequin with light fluffy romance stories. This was deep moving, and not about romance (in the traditional swept-of-your-feet kind of way). The Mourning Hours deals with the fallout of a missing-person's case. Kirsten (our narrator) is the younger sister of the town's (wrestling) hero Johnny. After she helps Johnny and his girlfriend Stacy get together, things start to become rather strange. Strange as in Stacy-i Wait, is this book seriously from Harlequin? I'm sorry, but I've always associated Harlequin with light fluffy romance stories. This was deep moving, and not about romance (in the traditional swept-of-your-feet kind of way). The Mourning Hours deals with the fallout of a missing-person's case. Kirsten (our narrator) is the younger sister of the town's (wrestling) hero Johnny. After she helps Johnny and his girlfriend Stacy get together, things start to become rather strange. Strange as in Stacy-is-insane strange. I honestly thought this novel would end up with Stacy turning into some kind of obsessive stalker-girl. But, it took a twist when Stacy disappeared and Johnny was suspected of murdering her. The rest of the novel deals with the fallout, and how small towns can take sides, and the mob mentality, and really, it's a look at human nature. There I said it. I'm making some sweeping literature statement, and no, I'm not about to write an essay. I honestly think that this book could be used as a literature text, and while I'm not about to start analysing it, I think it has a lot of meaning. (Disclaimer: I was never a good literature student, so please don't take my word for it and tell your teacher that you're doing an EE about it, because he/she may not accept it.) I love how it's not just about teen love, it's not just about growing up, but it kind of has everything. You'd think this book would be a lot longer, what with the breadth of the topic. I can't reccomend this highly enough. Disclaimer: I got a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review. This review was first posted to Inside the mind of a Bibliophile

  21. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    Not quite a 4.5, but almost. This book did start slowly for me, but I fully admit that may have been due more to my mindset rather than that book. However, it did not take long for me to get to a point where I couldn't put it down. This author has a talent not only for grabbing your interest and not letting go, but also for sucking you in as if you were part of the story itself. My senses were tingling with this one: I could clearly see what was going on; I could smell and taste the food/drink t Not quite a 4.5, but almost. This book did start slowly for me, but I fully admit that may have been due more to my mindset rather than that book. However, it did not take long for me to get to a point where I couldn't put it down. This author has a talent not only for grabbing your interest and not letting go, but also for sucking you in as if you were part of the story itself. My senses were tingling with this one: I could clearly see what was going on; I could smell and taste the food/drink that were mentioned; I could feel the bitter cold weather. I felt unsettled, anxious, and lost in the emotions of what this family was going through. I lost a night of sleep and much of today to this book. It was that good! I did figure out what happened well before the big reveal, but that didn't detract from the story for me. Even though the ending didn't surprise me, I still felt the anticipation. This is another DeBoard book that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    4 1/2 stars! An easy to read first person narrative, this story is told primarily through a nine year old girl's point of view. Her name is Kirsten, and in the early 90's her teenage brother goes on a date with his girlfriend, and the girlfriend Stacy Lemke, is never seen again. From the beginning, this seemed a twisted story, maybe even dark. More than anything, this book takes you through what happens to Kirsten and her family as a result of the suspicions cast over her brother, who was the la 4 1/2 stars! An easy to read first person narrative, this story is told primarily through a nine year old girl's point of view. Her name is Kirsten, and in the early 90's her teenage brother goes on a date with his girlfriend, and the girlfriend Stacy Lemke, is never seen again. From the beginning, this seemed a twisted story, maybe even dark. More than anything, this book takes you through what happens to Kirsten and her family as a result of the suspicions cast over her brother, who was the last person to see Stacy alive. Did her brother kill Stacy or not? Some parts of the book make it hard to put down. Fast forward to present time, and the story continues. It's pretty sad, overall, but it had a satisfying ending. Good mystery!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Anna Smith

    This book has the substance and depth of a cheap midday movie. I'm surprised I made it through to the end with all the eye-rolling I did.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    Sad book, but very effective, and the characters are easy to relate to. The small town setting is also very realistically-written.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The backflap of this book reads: “...a gripping portrayal of a family straining against extraordinary pressure, and a powerful tale of loyalty, betrayal and forgiveness.” To that I say: What loyalty??!? This family fails miserably to remain loyal to one another, choosing sides and abandoning each other when they need each other most, and I found it to be confusing and infuriating at the same time. The story begins with the Hammerstroms, an all-American family of five living on a rural Wisconsin far The backflap of this book reads: “...a gripping portrayal of a family straining against extraordinary pressure, and a powerful tale of loyalty, betrayal and forgiveness.” To that I say: What loyalty??!? This family fails miserably to remain loyal to one another, choosing sides and abandoning each other when they need each other most, and I found it to be confusing and infuriating at the same time. The story begins with the Hammerstroms, an all-American family of five living on a rural Wisconsin farm, and is told from the point of view of 9-year old Kirsten. Her 17-year old brother, Johnny, a popular high school athlete, soon begins to date Stacy, and on their way home from a date one night, during a snowstorm, Johnny loses control of his truck and it ends up in a ditch. Not far from home, Stacy decides to walk home, never to be seen again. Up to that point, the reader has been led to believe that Stacy isn't all she seems to be, she might be a little darker and perhaps more calculating than what others might think. She struck me as a little “off”, and not long after she disappeared, the possibility of a “Gone Girl”-like scenario entered my mind. Stacy seemed obsessed with Johnny, and Kirsten seemed inexplicably obsessed with Stacy. Yet almost immediately, Johnny is considered a suspect and even his family think he is a murderer. Kirsten has known her big brother her whole life, and his girlfriend for the summer, yet she has no loyalty to him at all. She saw them arguing, but didn't overhear anything, and is so eager to report this to the police right after Stacy disappeared, she can't sleep because she is so wracked with anxiety when her aunt dissuades her, telling her it's not a good idea. Even if they had an argument, why is she so quick to believe that it means he killed Stacy? Why not give her brother the benefit of the doubt? Why not have to been shown evidence...have to be stubbornly CONVINCED that her brother is guilty? Johnny is despondent and genuinely distraught, and I felt his anguish at the disappearance of his girlfriend, yet he is considered an outcast, even in his own home, his alienation from everyone and everything is so heavy even the reader can feel it. With the exception of his father, his mom and his sisters continue to distance themselves from him, until he explodes one day, yelling, “I'm the screwup son no one wants to talk to, the brother no one wants to acknowledge...you all stare at me like I'm some kind of killer.” I couldn't help but feel bad for Johnny; this poor kid...no sympathy, no support, no understanding, no compassion. He is never given the benefit of the doubt, not even among his own family, just automatically assumed to have killed his girlfriend. His mother snaps at him, “aren't you going to take some responsibility for this situation?” When even your own family thinks the worst of you right from the get-go, how on earth are you supposed to recover from that? He was never allowed to grieve for his loss, he was immediately cast as the villain, reviled by everyone, and abandoned by his family. He drops out of high school, and spends his day driving around. His little sister even wishes he would “come clean about what he'd done”, referring to him as “the murderer”, wondering where he drives to all day, wondering if he spends the day looking for his missing girlfriend, but then immediately decides that, “he didn't need to look for her, since he knew exactly where she was.” I felt utterly mystified by their reaction. Sure, maybe some of the townspeople thought he was involved, dividing this small town that knows everybody, certainly knowing Johnny his whole life, but EVERYONE? Including his own mother and sisters?? It all seemed completely unfounded. The author provided no insight into the kind of person Johnny was that would cause his family to so easily accept that he was capable of such an act. The story, being told from the point of view of his 9-year old sister should have provided some insight into who he was and what she had witnessed of her brother, some dark family secret childhood memories being disclosed to the reader that might shed some light on her brother, capable of violent outbursts or something that made everyone in the family a little afraid of his temper, but there was nothing. There was nothing to justify why everyone turned on him, and were so quick to do so. It was certainly plausible that Johnny could lose control of his truck in a snowstorm and veer off the road, and I just didn't understand the leap from unfortunate accident to premeditated murder. Then I thought maybe this was intentional on the part of the author, writing the story from the point of view of a fourth grader who wouldn't necessarily know or be kept informed of all the developments of her brother's situation, so there would be gaps in her knowledge and leaps she'd made in her child's mind. But as this is a book intended for adult readers, who require a bit more information to avoid making irrational leaps, this just came across as poorly executed, since the storyline jumped to a conclusion that the plot simply didn't support. There was nothing that led me to believe Johnny was capable of anything sinister, and I felt like I had missed something, and that feeling never went away. I eventually moved past feeling confused and began to feel like it was all done in an attempt by the author as an exaggerated misdirection. Sadly, because I never for a minute believed Johnny was involved in Stacy's disappearance, I had already started looking at the other characters, and the person I suspected was actually the guilty party in fact turned out to be just that, so there was no grand reveal in the end to catch me off-guard. The storyline was missing elements to at least cast some doubts on Johnny...maybe something found in his bedroom, his locker, or the glove compartment or something that would have the reader suspect that maybe he was involved after all, but the author didn't provide anything substantial here. And if the author is unable to convince the reader that the character might be guilty, it's impossible for the reader to understand how HIS OWN FAMILY was able to believe he was. Overall, this was kind of a frustrating and disappointing read, 2.5-stars...with the .5-star for Johnny and his tremendous capacity for forgiveness for those who should have loved him, protected him and stood by him all along.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Janine

    A fast read that kept me interested.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Angie Haupt

    About a year ago, I read Paula's "The Drowning Girls" and liked it so much that I requested my library buy 2013's "The Mourning Hours." They did, but I didn't get around to reading it until last month, when my library holds ran short and I needed a backlist book I could pick up that day. I ended up being totally blown away. Rather than a plot summary/review, I'll emphasize this: Paula Treick DeBoard is a really underrated voice in the thriller space. She belongs at the top of the list among the m About a year ago, I read Paula's "The Drowning Girls" and liked it so much that I requested my library buy 2013's "The Mourning Hours." They did, but I didn't get around to reading it until last month, when my library holds ran short and I needed a backlist book I could pick up that day. I ended up being totally blown away. Rather than a plot summary/review, I'll emphasize this: Paula Treick DeBoard is a really underrated voice in the thriller space. She belongs at the top of the list among the most favored names -- she is that good. "The Mourning Hours" -- her debut! -- is beautifully written; I lingered over many raw, striking lines and the sense of place she masterfully creates. Good news: She'll be back in January 2018 with "Here We Lie." Sounds right up my alley -- I can't wait.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I am giving this book five starts because I could not put it down. I think that what affected me most profoundly in reading this story is that it brought to the surface the sense that this could happen to nearly any family. Not these particular events, but a situation which stretches the limits of relationships, loyalty, and trust. As the story unfolds, the truth of what really happened is obscured. We can only see as clearly as nine-year-old Kirsten Hammarstrom, through whose eyes we witness th I am giving this book five starts because I could not put it down. I think that what affected me most profoundly in reading this story is that it brought to the surface the sense that this could happen to nearly any family. Not these particular events, but a situation which stretches the limits of relationships, loyalty, and trust. As the story unfolds, the truth of what really happened is obscured. We can only see as clearly as nine-year-old Kirsten Hammarstrom, through whose eyes we witness these events in near real-time. She sees more than many, but she does not have all of the facts. I won't give away the twists and turns that keep you moving from page to page and compelled me to finish this book in about four and a half solid hours of reading. I had to find out what happened. I had to see if this family could withstand the forces of accusation, anger, and grief that threatened to tear it apart. DeBoard has crafted a family that you know, people who live next door and around the corner and play softball with your siblings. She has placed them in a situation that would destroy most families, and she does not gloss over the toll that it takes on each one. Parents might keep this book from their older readers because of the rougher language that boils to the surface when the family members are pushed to the breaking point, and the nature of some of the events in the story, but it does feel honest and transparent. Because DeBoard has set this novel on the family farm in Wisconsin, I feel intimately acquainted with the kind of land on which it takes place; land which is in essence another quiet character of great importance. I did not spend summers lounging in this particular den or years growing up exploring this hayloft. But I know this beautiful farm, with its majestic barn and stately silo. I have listened to the rain thunder on the tin roof as I slept in those rooms beneath the eaves, and can picture Kirsten stuffed into the secret hiding places between closets. The land is there, its presence providing stability and strength when all else is chaos. It is solid, it is true. The cycle of life permeates the story, and this novel feels firmly rooted in that 160 acres of good, rich soil. These characters will live with me. I understand the awkward bookworm. But I also understand the obsessive teenager, the accused and misunderstood boy on the brink of being a man. My heart aches for the parents on all sides, and for the tense relationships that run beneath the surface and break through in moments of pain. These feel like real people, and their lives and experiences will echo in my mind for a long time.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This is one of those books that you finish and your feelings are just completely mixed. I had this book sitting on my shelf for awhile and thought I would knock it out not knowing exactly what it was about. I enjoyed the family's story in this book, I thought it was intricate and detailed and showed what Johnny's family experienced during the time when Stacey Lemke went missing and how it affected the family unit as a whole. This to me was great and well written. What I did not enjoy was how abo This is one of those books that you finish and your feelings are just completely mixed. I had this book sitting on my shelf for awhile and thought I would knock it out not knowing exactly what it was about. I enjoyed the family's story in this book, I thought it was intricate and detailed and showed what Johnny's family experienced during the time when Stacey Lemke went missing and how it affected the family unit as a whole. This to me was great and well written. What I did not enjoy was how about 4/5 of the book was about Stacey's disappearance in 1994-1995 and then for the last 50 pages it jumps to 2011 and just gives you a snippet of the past 16 years with a giant atom bomb at the end. It was like the author wrote this great story up until the last part then was like "oh well time to wrap things up" and hit fast forward to just get the story over with. I can't really say that I would "recommend" this because I didn't like it and I didn't hate it. It was just a very average book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    This book is a culmination of a life noticing. Noticing the little details, the nuances of family conversation, the feelings we reveal in our faces when we are trying to keep them hidden. Kirsten notices all these things in this story. With the mind of a nine year old she doesn't always understand the meaning of them, but she holds them in her heart, pondering them, deciphering them, questioning them. Unlike most of you readers, I HAVE been to the Hammarstrom (Treick) farm. It's where I spent ti This book is a culmination of a life noticing. Noticing the little details, the nuances of family conversation, the feelings we reveal in our faces when we are trying to keep them hidden. Kirsten notices all these things in this story. With the mind of a nine year old she doesn't always understand the meaning of them, but she holds them in her heart, pondering them, deciphering them, questioning them. Unlike most of you readers, I HAVE been to the Hammarstrom (Treick) farm. It's where I spent time in the summer, upstairs in the hottest part of the farmhouse, sheets stuck to my body and big Wisconsin mosquitoes buzzing in my ears. I hid in those awkward spaces in the closets, underneath decades of flannel shirts, ties of every width, the BIG dictionary from early last century. So when I read this book, I could picture myself with my sisters perched at the top of the stairs, stairs that all of us took a tumble down one time or another because they were not made for modern sized feet. I ran with Kirsten from the back door to the barn, blazing a trail through the snow, finding that spot in the hayloft to be by myself. I was there. But my time at the farm was always brief, a week or two during the summer, a few days around Christmas... Kirsten LIVED there, and DeBoard filled in the empty months for me. I never saw the mundane parts of farm life, the arrival of calves, the milking every day. I never dealt with such a tragedy as Kirsten and her family deal with in the disappearance of Stacy Lemke. And the writing is so evocative that it grounded me there. I wasn't a visitor. I felt the lighthearted days the Hammarstroms spent during that summer before it all happened. I felt the confusion and frustration when Stacy disappears, the anger that fingers are being pointed at them, the humiliation of going back to school after such public scrutiny. When Kirsten is forced to make the choice to stay at her beloved farm or leave, I cried. This book rang true to the deepest part of me, the heritage left to me by a century and a half of hard working family. I am so thankful it was brought to life and to print so that when I forget those days of my childhood, slapping flies on the barn windows, finding little headstones from ancestors long passed, running to the rock pile and back through the cornfields, I can pick up this book and be transported. There's a family living there now, but I know them. I know the Hammarstroms.

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