Fran Kimmel's latest novel, No Good Asking, is set during the week leading up to Christmas Day. The time frame - and the message - were perfect for December reading.
Retired RCMP Sergeant Eric Nyland and his family have moved back to his childhood home at his wife Ellie's instigation. This way, they can look after Walter - Eric's father who has dementia. And she feels it's a better place for their autistic son Sammy. Teenaged Daniel is not so sure about the move. But things have not gone as Ellie had envisioned - the marriage is limping along and the relocation hasn't accomplished what she envisioned. In her mind, having a perfect family Christmas is another chance to bring change.
But a 'perfect' Christmas is not in the cards. Eric rescues an eleven year old girl named Hannah from the drunken neighbour across the road. She's lived there a year and Eric had no idea there was a child in the house. With his background, Social Services asks the Nylands to keep her until a suitable foster family is found.
Kimmel's characterizations had my emotions running the gamut. I liked Eric - his sense of right and wrong and appreciated his attempts to 'fix' his marriage. Daniel's portrayal of a impulsive teen finding his own way in a new setting is well done. Sammy and his autistic behavior is spot on. As is Walter, with his mind everywhere but the present, unable to keep a firm grasp on the here and now. His dead wife Myrtle stills wield an influence over Ellie as there are traces and memories of her throughout the home. Ellie. Ellie was the most complicated and difficult character for me. I felt sympathy for her in the beginning as we learn a bit more about her marriage and history with Eric. But her present day behaviour - sharp, biting, dismissive and downright cruel had me turning against her. The cruelty is directed towards Hannah and that only exacerbated my feelings about Ellie. Hannah is a wounded child, desperately trying to blend into the woodwork and stay out of the way, avoiding angering anyone. But, she is the character who ends up making the most difference in this fractured family. How? You'll have to read the book to find out.
Kimmel's writing felt so very real in both characters and situations. And I did break my own rule at one point - I just couldn't wait and flipped forward to see if a situation turned out the way I needed it to. (It did, thank goodness) Kimmel deftly explores family, love, loss, hope, redemption and more in No Good Asking. This was an unexpected gem of read for me. See for yourself - here's an excerpt of No Good Asking.