Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Book Reviews: Finding Emma and Emma's Secret

By Kathryn Hamilton

Most parents have experienced the sheer and utter panic of losing sight of their child at some point or another because little ones often don’t understand the danger in running off willy-nilly at a whim. I myself got lost in Sears at the age of three or four, when I decided to play hide and seek in the clothing racks unbeknownst to my parents. Thankfully, I was tearfully reunited with my family within a half hour. Imagine though, this occurring in your front yard, only with the added horror of realizing that your child has gone missing. This is the scenario which Steena Holmes very poignantly creates in the captivating Finding Emma and its equally engrossing sequel Emma’s Secret.

Two years after her daughter has gone missing, Megan Taylor refuses to believe that Emma is gone forever. The community has moved on, and her family is trying to move on, but Megan’s “obsession” with finding her baby girl is threatening to destroy that family. Despite pleas from husband Peter to accept that Emma won’t be returning home, Megan continues her search after a chance sighting leaves her positive that her daughter is close, but will this be the final straw?

Steena Holmes portrays every parent’s nightmare in such a way that you are sure to get drawn into the novel from page one. There is a realism to the characters that only comes from a dedication to heartfelt research. Ms. Holmes allows for enough character development so that the reader gets an understanding of what is beneath the words and behaviour of the Taylor family, without detriment to the plot. It would be easy to criticize Megan for her tunnel vision as her primary focus is on finding Emma, but Ms. Holmes writes her in such a way that one can empathize with the desperation and agony she feels, and the guilt that drives her actions. In many ways, the reader is able to see the incredible strength this woman has, but also the numerous ways she is flawed. This juxtaposition creates an honest portrait of a mother in crisis.

Although I certainly felt empathy towards Megan, I was more drawn to her daughters Hannah and Alexis. I found myself wanting to shake Megan and tell her to wake up to what was going on in front of her. My heart broke for these two young girls forced to deal with such an adult situation while both parents are seemingly disengaged. The only character that I did not feel as connected to was Peter. I felt that his role was somewhat minor and the reader wasn’t given as much foresight into his character as the others. However, this is rectified in the sequel, where there is a much greater focus on the family as a whole.

Emma’s Secret picks up a few months after the conclusion of Finding Emma. The reader gets a sense that Ms. Holmes has a real understanding of her characters and doesn’t skip a beat as their story continues. To me, at the heart of this novel in particular is the story of how a family begins to heal after a tragedy/crisis. Guilt is an emotion that many of the characters must find their way through and the ways in which this guilt manifests itself is true to who they are. Forgiveness is another theme that runs throughout the story; forgiveness of others but more importantly, forgiving yourself. Guilt and forgiveness are intertwined and Ms. Holmes does a beautiful job in showing how they can hurt a family and the integral part they have in the healing process.

As a reader, I was pleased that the character of Peter was given more of the spotlight in the sequel. We are shown a different side to him that makes him much more likable and in many ways, the hero of the story. As with Megan, Peter is also flawed, but certainly redeems himself and proves to be the rock and voice of reason.

Many children go missing every year and sadly a high percentage of these children are never reunited with their families. Ms. Holmes does an outstanding job in creating a story that is honest and heartbreaking, but also demonstrates the beauty of family coming together and healing. A portion of proceeds from the sale of these novels go towards the Missing Children Society of Canada.

Thanks to BookSparks PR for both novels in exchange for an honest review. There's also a novella from this series, Dear Jack, available for $2.99 on Kindle.

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1 comment:

Michelle said...

Wow these books sound really good!! Being a parent to a small child, it's hard for me to read books about topics like this. I have to think about it before I decide if I want to read them or not. They sound really great though!!