She left her hometown 20 years ago, and no one has heard from her since. Is she even still alive? What could have been so horrific as to not only drive her away but also keep her away for so long?
McComas (Necessary Changes, 2001, etc.) gives Hannah Benson an intriguing past to uncover. After her mother and sister have passed away, leaving her teenaged niece, Anna, in need of a guardian, Hannah gets a call out of the blue from Grady Steadman, her childhood sweetheart. Now sheriff of Clearfield, Va., Grady must persuade Hannah to come back for Anna. It could be a tough sell: Hannah has spent the last 20 years making a very safe life for herself, avoiding romance and even building a career in insurance. Little does Grady suspect that coming home will force Hannah to face the demons of her past: an abusive father, a dysfunctional family and a town that let it all happen. Of course, the reader can guess all this within the first few pages. Despite her misgivings, Hannah will do the right thing and return to Clearfield to take care of her family’s loose ends. Despite the emotional damage inflicted by her abusive father, she will easily come to love again. With a last name like “Steadman,” of course, Grady will become the steady man in Hannah’s life as she confronts her demons. Her niece will eventually come to bond with her Aunt Hannah. And “what happened to Hannah” will be revealed over the course of the novel. Yet “what happened to Hannah” is so heavily hinted at that when it is revealed it comes as little surprise.
McComas has written a pleasing fairy tale that will satisfy many readers. But those looking for a more nuanced handling of the repercussions of childhood trauma should look elsewhere.