Like her debut, The Weight of Silence, Gudenkauf’s latest explores the vulnerability of children, this time through two linked stories narrated in alternating chapters. Social worker Ellen Moore juggles responsibility for three children, a husband, a widowed mother, and a caseload of endangered children. One hot and hectic July morning, she rushes out of her house in Cedar City, Iowa, to help a troubled family, barely hearing her husband’s goodbyes. Only later does she realize that Adam, asking her to bring their infant daughter Avery to daycare, has put the child into their van. As Avery is rushed to the hospital with life-threatening heatstroke, Ellen faces a familiar investigation—this time as an accused perpetrator of child endangerment herself. Out on bail but prohibited from seeing Avery, she finds refuge at her mother’s house. Meanwhile, 10-year-old Jenny Briard runs away from her home in Nebraska after her alcoholic father is arrested. When Jenny ends up in Cedar City, she is found and taken in by Ellen’s lonely mother, Maudene. Helping her mother decide what to do with the girl, Ellen realizes that clues to the secrets of Jenny’s past are within her own case files. With its compelling premise, Ellen’s story is more gripping than Jenny’s. But its hurried denouement feels false and sentimental, denying the more nuanced resolution her complex situation deserves. (July)
Reviewed on: 04/21/2014 Release date: 06/24/2014 Genre: Fiction
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