I received this book from PR by the Book for no charge in exchange for my honest opinion of this book. The opinions expressed here are my own!
A Tale of a Family Coping With Mental Illness, Ghosts, and “The Hardest Thing In This World,” Set in the Midwestern Suburbs
her troubled daughter Renee drops dead at 24, Melody Sawyer steals the
urn of her ashes from the memorial service, rides away on the ferry and
eats some of the ashes. That’s when Renee’s ghost first appears.
So begins The Hardest Thing in This World, a
novel by Nicole Eva Fraser about family, mental illness and the search
for hope and meaning in the things that hurt. Fraser, a greeting card
writer and adult-literacy activist in Cleveland, Ohio, explores a darker
side of writing in her first novel and interweaves her Micmac Indian
heritage and cosmology into the stories of Melody Sawyer and her
daughters Renee and Kayla, who discover that “the hardest thing in this
world is to live in it.”
Set in the suburbs of
Cleveland, the story is told in a nonlinear narrative through the eyes
of the three Sawyer women. Smart-mouthed Melody is an underachiever, a
home health care nurse with good intentions and a chip on her shoulder.
Her married daughter Kayla has been deep in a clandestine affair with
pro baseball player Baron Lee Presley since she was 16. After her death,
Renee’s ghost keeps popping in on the family, invited and uninvited,
much like the ghost of Uncle Jamie used to visit the girls. The roster
of characters also includes Melody’s brother, Michael, a first baseman
for the Cleveland Indians, and Winch, the girls’ grief-stricken father,
among others. Revolving around family and the issues that come with
living in a family with mental illness, the story follows the Sawyer
women through birth, coming-of-age and dealing with the death—and
ghosts—of loved ones.
The Hardest Thing in This World is the debut novel from author Nicole Eva Fraser. When Melody Sawyer leaves her daughter Renee's memorial service with her ashes in tow, to head home. She decides to do something different with the ashes, which includes eating some of them. From that point on Melody is visited by Renee's ghost. From here we go back to the beginning of life for Kayla and Renee and see their families life unfold.
The Hardest Thing in This World is a well written novel that stays with you after you finish reading it. As a fan of new authors and their debut novels, I was very excited to be given the opportunity to read this. Nicole Eva Fraser writes with authority on health care, mental illness, grief, baseball, Ohio, and ghosts in the haunting novel about a family faced with death and mental illness. I found myself completely taken in with the novel from the start. Each chapter has a name to it and is on of the Sawyer family women. Nicole Eva Fraser gives voice to these women and tells their stories beautifully. This story spoke to me from all aspects, as a mother, as a person who struggles with depression, and as a sibling trying to help another sibling. The characters in this novel are strong women who struggle with their weaknesses like the rest of us. Kayla's character really spoke to me and I felt a certain kinship with that character. As I read this novel, I felt like I was there watching the events unfold. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys reading Contemporary Fiction about family and mental illness. I have found a new author to add to my must read list. I cannot wait to read Nicole Eva Fraser's next book,I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, set to release in 2014. I give this book 5 Stars!