Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Lost Hours by Karen White

The Lost Hours by Karen White (Rated: C)
New American Library
ISBN: 978-0-451-22649-5
Published: April 2009
Trade Paperback, 343 pages

Reviewed by Sandra
This story is set in Savannah, Georgia, so immediately I imagined a story about romance, intrigue, and “the South”. I wasn’t disappointed. Karen White is an excellent storyteller with lots of imagination, weaving in dark secrets with poignant family situations ranging from Alzheimer’s to blindness, life-long friendships and more. Throw in racial issues and the reader is kept fascinated to the end. The timeline flicks back and forth from present-day to the 1930’s segregated South.
The author uses an interesting technique, alternating between first person accounts and third-person narrative thus allowing the reader to get a rounded out understanding of the story. There are 4 primary characters, each with their own fears, insecurities, regrets, guilt. In short, real people!
Earlene/Piper disregarded her grandmother, Annabelle, even before her death, thinking that “long before the Alzheimer’s got her mind, a fear of living had taken hold of her spirit, convincing me that my grandmother had no stories worth listening to.” However, in researching her deceased grandmother’s past she unearths a buried box containing a bunch of scrapbook pages and a picture of 3 young girls. In her grandmother’s attic she stumbles upon a hidden room. The scrapbook pages, the room, a blue baby sweater and blanket, and a 1939 newspaper clipping of the death of a black baby boy are at the heart of the mystery in the book. “There are some things that should never be forgotten – like the worth of an old friendship, and a secret to take to the grave”, is the comment made by Lillian, one of Annabelle’s childhood friends, who holds the answer to the mystery.
The character development is excellent. We see Lillian move from a child, to a beautiful young woman to a 90-year-old matriarch who is full of love for her granddaughter, and who, in her own words “attributed her longevity to her stubborn ability to never confuse grief with regret.” We note the change in Earlene/Piper from a bitter, self-centered person to a loving, considerate woman open to new possibilities in her life. My favourite person was Helen. Read the book to experience the incredible nuances of her personality, talent, love.

The descriptions of the oak trees throughout the book are impressive. They seem to take on the attitudes of the people in the story at various times. At one point the narrator calls them “grieving oaks”, then as a “canopy of old men protecting what was theirs.” Finally, they become “strong and supple again, each limb bearing the bud of new life, each shawl of moss swaying with the promise of forgiveness.”

I highly recommend this book. Family relationships, family secrets, friendship, love, renewal, forgiveness, and the strength to go forward are explored in this intriguing tale, well told.

Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way, nor told how to rate or review this book.

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  1. I recently read my first book by White and thought it was great, so I definitely want to read more. I'm glad to see you loved this one.

  2. I love Southern books and this one sounds like a good one. I did laugh, however, when you mentioned the descriptions of the trees b/c it made me think of that famous Barbara Walters question, "if you were a tree what kind would you be?"

    Nice review

  3. I have this in my tbr pile too. I bought it after reading Tradd Street. I agree Karen White tells a good story. I'm looking forward to reading more form her.

  4. Sandra, I have now started reading the book and I like it. I can feel the suspense building and my curiosity piqued. Your review is excellent! Can't wait to discuss this book during our next book club meeting.

  5. I'd want to buy this one for the lovely cover alone, but the fact that it's Karen White is a major plus! Thanks for the review!

    Julie @ Knitting and Sundries


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