Saturday, June 28, 2014

Little Mercies--Heather Gudenkauf

Little Mercies
Heather Gudenkauf
Mira, Jun 24 2014, $15.95
ISBN 9780778316336

In Cedar City, Iowa, Ellen Moore struggles to be a superwoman as she and her husband Adam the teacher raise their three young kids; while as a social worker she deals with harrowing cases involving children.  On a hot summer morning, Adam says goodbye while a distracted Ellen handles a nasty case.  Several hours later, the police visit her at a restaurant when she realizes Adam told her he left their infant daughter Avery inside their van for Ellen to take the child to daycare.  Rushed to the hospital Avery is placed in ICU suffering from deadly heatstroke.  Instead of being the investigator, Ellen is charged with child endangerment.  Freed on bail, but banned from seeing her baby, Ellen hides at her widowed mother Maudene’s house.

While Ellen prays for her child’s recovery, ten year old Jenny Briard runs away from her Nebraska home following the arrest of her alcoholic father.  Maudene finds her in Cedar City and brings the tweener to her home.  Ellen soon realizes that her case files contain information on the runaway.

This is an entertaining tense family drama in which Heather Gudenkauf once again looks at the vulnerability of children (see One Breath Away).  Ironically the social worker finds herself under the microscope that she used disdainfully so many times at neglectful and abusive parents and guardians.  Both subplots are well written, but Ellen’s plight much deeper though each ends unsatisfyingly abrupt.

Harriet Klausner

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