Goodbye and Hello: Safe with Me

The opening of Amy Hatvany’s newest novel Safe with Me (Allen and Unwin) could have lost me. It could only be described as traumatic, hitting hard with details of an accident involving the loss of a child, a child about the same age as one of my own sons.

At first I wasn’t sure if I would be able to push through the scene, but I thought – why would a writer be doing this to me, the reader, unless for a good reason?

The book’s ‘teaser’ promised me more than just the heartbreak found in the first few pages of the text and so, as is the way with good storytelling, at the same time as being horrified, I was hooked…

safe with meWith the horrific screech of tyres, Hannah Scott’s world as she knew it is brought to a devastating end.

One year after the accident, Hannah is still discouraging all attempts by family and friends to help her resume her normal life. But when her path crosses with Olivia Bell and her daughter Maddie who is finally on the way to recovery after a serious illness, Hannah develops a surprisingly close friendship with Olivia in a short time.

The Bells, however, have problems of their own. Many times on the verge of leaving her wealthy but abusive husband, Olivia now finds herself bound to him as never before in the wake of Maddie’s illness.

Meanwhile Maddie, tired of the limits her poor health puts upon her and fearful of her father’s increasing rage, regularly escapes into the one place where she can be anyone she wants: the internet. But when she is finally healthy enough to live her life in the way she’s longed to do, the real world proves to be just as complicated as the isolated bubble she had been so eager to escape.

I persevered, and I found within this book a touching and inspiring story. In a similar way to the storytelling of Jodi Picoult, Hatvany introduced me to a cast of conflicted, flawed and endearingly human characters – Hannah still deep in her grief, building her business whilst hiding behind it; Olivia living in fear, her perfectly manicured appearance and measured emotions working to protect herself from a vicious husband, and to shield her daughter from his cruel volatility; and Maddie, a young girl finding her way through the fog of serious illness and teen angst, learning to deal with the fact that she is only alive due to the sacrifice of another.

Although it’s a little coincidental that Hannah, Olivia and Maddie happen to meet, it is of course pivitol to story being told and so I forgave the stretch. Essentially I was glad that they meet, as it gave grounds for an exploration into the emotions and experiences of these woman. Though a difficult process, all three women help each other face their demons (in some cases, quite literally) and essentially come through the other side, stronger and freer.

Safe with Me, is a good, clean narrative, a story-based novel that will have you drawn in. There were a few occasions where I thought the pace could do with a little work, but I think that’s mainly because of my own reading preferences, not so much the novel itself. If you like a good story, a solid plot and well developed characters, this novel is for you. I can say pretty confidently that if you’re a fan of Picoult, you’ll enjoy Amy Hatvany’s work equally.

You can find out more about Amy Hatvany’s Safe with Me at the Allen and Unwin website here…