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Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Review Friday: The Lost Hours by Karen White

In a continuation of the "Read what's on my shelf" thing I have going on, I read Karen White's The Lost Hours a few weekends ago. Seriously -- I started this book on a Friday night and finished on Sunday morning. The only reason it took me so long was that I had to go to a wedding that weekend. The book is THAT good.

Like Saving Cee Honeycutt, last week's review, The Lost Hours is set in Savannah. It's a very different Savannah than CeeCee's world, though . . . less whimsical, more filled with dark secrets that have affected several generations of three families.

In the beginning of The Lost Hours, Piper Mills is reeling from the death of her grandfather. Orphaned as a child, Piper was raised by her grandparents in one of Savannah's grand old houses. A former equestrian champion, Piper had been severely injured in a competition six years earlier, and after her grandfather's death, struggled to find her place and purpose in the world.

The story begins after the funeral, when Piper receives an envelope with two letters, written by her grandmother Annabelle some 70 years earlier to a mysterious friend, and a key. In searching the house for more information about these items, Piper discovers a blue infant sweater in an old trunk, and remembers burying an old box in the yard with her grandfather. She digs up the box, and finds pieces from a scrapbook, a charm bracelet, and a mysterious newspaper clipping from 1939, about an unidentified Black baby found dead in the Savannah River.

Intrigued, Piper begins searching for answers about her grandmother's past. This brings her to a horse farm outside of Savannah, owned by her grandmother's former best friend. Posing as a geneaologist researching the family for a friend, Piper ingratiates herself with Lillian and begins to learn shocking truths about her grandmother's early life, and the history of her family and Savannah.

To say that I loved this book is an understatement. At first, I wasn't so sure -- Piper was so miserable in the early chapters, so depressed and bitter that she was unlikable, and I wondered if I could get through another 300 pages of such as sad sack. As Piper explored her grandmother's story, though, she grew and changed, and became far more sympathetic.

The mystery of the baby, and why Annabelle and Lillian did not speak for more than 70 years is intriguing, and that story kept me turning the pages. I wanted to know what happened, and each time I thought I had it pieced together, a new piece of information emerged that forced me to reconsider my theory. And when the answer is revealed in the final pages, it's shocking, yet completely satisfying and true to the characters that White had created. In fact, the story has a "happy ending," as much as such a tragic tale can, but it didn't feel contrived or rushed.

Like the last two books I've read, I can't believe I let this one sit on the shelf for so long -- and that I've never read Karen White's books before. I'll definitely be adding more of her books to my "must-read" list.

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