amy hatvany

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…

Heart Like Mine

Thank goodness for the TBYL Reviewers – without them, I’d never be able to tell you about so many amazing books! I’m so lucky to have some wonderful people reading and reviewing for us, and today’s review is from the wonderful Carolyn Jones. Read on to find out more about Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany (Allen and Unwin) and about how you can enter to win a copy of your own…

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Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany (Allen and Unwin) shares the story of three woman, all very different from each other but connected nonetheless. There is Grace, 36 years old, a successful CEO and a woman comfortable in her decision to never have children of her own. Then there’s Kelli, a young single mother of two and the ex-wife of Grace’s fiancé. Finally, there is Kelli’s beloved daughter, Ava. Thirteen years old and completely devoted to her mother, Ava is desperate not to form a relationship with her father’s new partner. Very early in the story Kelli sadly and unexpectedly dies, meaning that Ava and her younger brother must live with their father and in turn, Grace. As you might expect, this sudden upheaval complicates the already strained relationship between Ava and her step-mother Grace.

Heart Like Mine alternates between narrating around the relationships shared by the three women and their overlapping stories, giving the reader a chance to see all sides of the difficult situation.

heart like mineI loved this book. I found it very easy to read but more importantly, I did not want to put it down. Amy Hatvany distinguishes the different narrators very clearly, with chapter headings and distinctive tones, whilst ensuring that the story flowed smoothly and never confusing the reader as to whose turn it was to tell their story. I don’t want to give too much away about what happens in the book as I enjoyed not knowing which way the story was going to take me. However, this is a book review, so I do need to provide something more to entice you to read this book…

There are some strong themes throughout the novel about womanhood, love and family. The age of thirteen is when a child becomes an adolescent and should be a time for greater independence, boyfriends and girlfriends, and discovering oneself. However, the three leading ladies in Heart Like Mine all encounter a life-changing event when they are thirteen. These individual events force these girls from early adolescence into adulthood much too young.

The main theme that Amy Hatvany explores is that of motherhood, from all perspectives; choosing to become a mother or having it thrust upon you unexpectedly…

She paused and gave me a dreamy smile. “But you really don’t know what love is until you’re a mother. You can’t understand it until you’ve had a baby yourself, but it’s the most intense feeling in the world.

I winced a little when she said this, as though she meant that a heart like mine was somehow defective because I hadn’t had children. I didn’t think of myself as less able to feel love. But her comments made me question myself and wonder if by missing out on motherhood, I was missing out on something that would make me a better person.

Grace, Kelli and Ava are incredibly strong women in their own right and through their narration we, the readers, feel their insecurities and share in their personal struggles to keep going through very tough times. I loved how Amy Hatvany developed these characters and didn’t dwell too much on clichés about stepmothers and daughters. I really believed their story. I highly recommend Heart Like Mine, whether you can identify with elements of it or reflect on your own growing up this book will stay with you for days. It’s a wonderful story, a drama of the challenges that comes with losing something too soon. If you take pleasure in a meaningful tale, or like me, love to weep in a book then I think you will enjoy Heart Like Mine.

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This month, a lucky reader will win a copy of Heart Like Mine courtesy of Allen & Unwin Books.

To enter, email info@thatbookyoulike.com.au, subject line ‘HEART’ and include your name and postal details. A winner will be chosen at random on 30.06.13 and notified by email.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany shop now at the TBYL Store…

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