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Words

Finding Safety

A tale of two mothers

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

You’ve had the best of times. You’ve seen the worst of times.

The former seems like a tissue in a hurricane: here, then whisked away in a blink, as though it never occurred. The latter is something like a car stuck in a snowstorm: you just spin in place, waiting for the right push.

Best. Worst. You’ve known them equally. And, as in the new book Safe with Me, by Seattle-based author Amy Hatvany, you know that you’ll live through both of them.

Salon owner Hannah Scott was sure she’d reminded her 12-year-old daughter, Emily, to wear her bike helmet at least a million times. A million times, and Emily usually did as she was told—except one warm afternoon when she didn’t, and was hit by a car in front of her house.

At the hospital, her daughter gone, Hannah spun in grief. What would she do without Emily? Would she consider donating Emily’s organs? It was something she’d never thought about—then again, neither were funeral arrangements for her only child.

When doctors told Olivia Bell they might finally have a liver for her 15-year-old, Maddie, she felt elation and sadness. Maddie’s illness was critical, but Olivia hated that someone else’s child had to die so hers might live. Still, it meant an end to this whole ordeal. As soon as Maddie was feeling better, Olivia could relax about that part of her life and return to the other part—her escape from her abusive husband, James.

Maddie hated the new school her father made her attend. She wasn’t tall and model-thin like the other girls at the school; bloated from anti-rejection meds and with thin, stringy hair, she was sure she’d never fit in. So when her Mom offered to take her to a new salon for a cut-and-highlight, she agreed, but she wasn’t sure if it would help her feel any better about her pathetic life.

She also wasn’t sure why she’d blurted her story to the stylist; it wasn’t like Maddie to tell a stranger about her organ transplant. But this Hannah did a good job on her hair, and she seemed like a nice person, like somebody Maddie could trust…

Uncomplicated. That’s what you want to read next: something light, easy and rather predictable, which Hatvany offers here. From the minute you start the third chapter of Safe with Me, in fact, you know what’s basically going to happen by the end. I won’t even say it, because you know.

And yet, that predictability is precisely why readers might enjoy this story: it’s like comfort food. The characters are likeable; you’ll be able to identify with the plot, if you’re a parent; and it contains gentle drama and a (dare I say it?) happy ending. Like your Mom’s famous mac-and-cheese, it feels good consuming it.

So, overall, should you read this book? If you want a floaty distraction then, yes, this will work just fine.

SVCR Don McLean
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