cover image Hannah and Ariela

Hannah and Ariela

Johnnie Bernhard. TCU, $23.95 (176p) ISBN 978-0-87565-816-2

A tragedy links two women across generations, nationality, and circumstance in Bernhard’s timely latest (after Sisters of the Undertow). Hannah Schoen Durand grieves the recent death of her husband, August, as their Rocksprings, Tex., ranch is hit with a loud sleet storm. Across the border in Zaragoza, Mexico, young Ariela Morales contemplates escape from her drab life with her best friend, Katia. Bernhard dispenses vivid details of Hannah and Ariela piecemeal while establishing the characters in broad strokes as empathetic archetypes—Hannah’s a strong, independent woman; Ariela is a teen with average teen desires. While Hannah reminisces about the early years of her marriage, Ariela and Katia undertake a risky adventure with a boy who offers to take them across the border, and the girls’ ill-fated trip brings Hannah and Ariela together. Other narrators weigh in, including Hannah’s daughter in law, a border agent, the girl’s priest, and a Texas county sheriff. With this spectrum of perspectives, Bernhard illustrates the dangers of life along the border and the domino effect that the actions of one can have on others. Though the story is primarily issue-driven, the author adds just enough character development to get the reader invested. (Aug.)