What Happened to Hannah by Mary Kay McComas
Publication date: February 7, 2012
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
As a teenager, Hannah Benson’s one chance to save herself was to run away. As the years have passed, she’s never looked back, not even to find out what happened to the mother and sister she left behind. Now, twenty years later, the past comes calling when her hometown sheriff, Grady Steadman — Hannah’s sweetheart in high school — delivers some life-changing news: her mother and sister are dead, leaving her guardian of her fifteen-year-old niece.
Returning home to bitter memories and devastating secrets, Hannah must find a way to make this new challenge work without ruining lives — or destroying her own sanity. And when her painful memories of this small town become mingled with the new, happier moments she’s creating with her niece — and the rekindled feelings she has for Grady — Hannah is faced with the most difficult challenge yet.
Hannah has spent the past twenty years trying to forget her past, specifically the emotional, verbal and physical abuse from her father. The only good she left behind was her sister, Ruth, and her boyfriend, Grady. It wasn’t easy, but Hannah has made something of herself with the help of her surrogate father, Joe Levitz. Joe was her father, mentor and friend and it was with his help that she became an insurance agent and agency owner. Now the time has come for Hannah to face her past and return home to the memories left behind and a niece she’s never known.
Grady Steadman, indeed, the entire town, knew that Karl Benson and his family were different. The adults suspected abuse, but nothing was ever done. As a result, Hannah often went to school with bruises from “falls” and even broken bones. Most of the town had assumed that Karl had killed Hannah as she disappeared on the night of the worst beating yet, but since a body had never been found again nothing was done. But Karl is dead, Ruth is dead, even Hannah’s mother is dead and there’s no family member left to take care of fifteen-year-old Anna but her aunt.
Hannah’s return is anything but triumphant and she can’t wait to leave Clearfield once again. She doesn’t know the first thing about being a parent, even a surrogate parent and isn’t sure her niece will even like her. Fortunately Hannah, and her niece Anna, learn to like, respect then love one another. Misunderstanding and mistakes are made but they both have much to learn about each other.
What Happened to Hannah discusses some weighty issues, such as child abuse, spousal abuse, and even the possibility of child molestation. Ms. McComas doesn’t gloss over these issues and treats them with the dignity and respect they deserve. Although Hannah and Grady have feelings for one another, Grady knows that Hannah is still hiding something. Until she can trust him fully, he isn’t willing to turn custody of Anna over to her. I found all of the characters, especially Hannah, Anna, and Grady’s daughter Lucy to be likeable, if not lovable, and all too realistic. Grady and Joe provide the much needed male counterparts to these strong females. They aren’t overly protective or domineering and seemed to provide the masculine perspective and counterpoint of view. What Happened to Hannah has romance, drama, as well as teenage and adult angst tempered with humor and sensitivity. This may not be an easy read for some because of the issues discussed, but it is definitely worth reading.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”