Review: Safe with Me by Amy Havatny

safe-with-me“A novel about two mothers and one daughter who are linked by tragedy and bound by secrets, from the acclaimed author of Heart Like Mine. Now, in the provocative Safe with Me, Amy Hatvany explores controversial and timely issues with astonishing emotional complexity.
The screech of tires brought Hannah Scott’s world as she knew it to a devastating end. Even a year after she signed the papers to donate her daughter’s organs, Hannah is still reeling with grief when she unexpectedly stumbles into the life of the Bell family, whose child, Maddie, survived only because hers had died. Mesmerized by this fragile connection to her own daughter and afraid to reveal who she actually is, Hannah develops a surprising friendship with Maddie’s mother, Olivia.
The Bells, however, have problems of their own. Once on the verge of leaving her wealthy but abusive husband, Olivia now finds herself bound to him as never before in the wake of the successful transplant that saved their fifteen-year-old daughter’s life. Meanwhile Maddie, tired of the limits her poor health puts upon her and fearful of her father’s increasing rage, regularly escapes into the one place where she can be anyone she wants: the Internet. But when she is finally healthy enough to return to school, the real world proves to be just as complicated as the isolated bubble she had been so eager to escape.
A masterful narrative, shaped by nuanced characters whose fragile bonds are on a collision course with the truth, Safe with Me is a triumph.” – Publisher Summary

Oh, y’all. Y’all, y’all, y’all. Safe With Me by Amy Havatny was a bit of a traumatic read for me, in that it involves a single mother whose only child dies at the age of twelve. Single mother? Hi, how ‘ya doing? Twelve-year-old child? Hell000! While I did not cry (I don’t do that too terribly easily), I did spend much of the time reading this book with a tight feeling of panic rising up in my chest… Um, it is possible that I identified with this character’s position just a wee too much. ‘Ya think?

This story is narrated by Hannah, Olivia, and Maddie. Hannah’s twelve-year-old daughter Emily, is killed in a car accident and Hannah donates Emily’s organs. Olivia’s daughter, Maddie, is just days away from death when she receives the gift of Emily’s liver and is able to return to relative health and back to a somewhat normal life. Organ donors and recipients are required to remain anonymous and time passes as each family goes on with their lives.

Hannah spends a year living inside a bubble of grief when Olivia and Maddie step into her salon one day and she realizes that Maddie is the recipient of Emily’s liver. Hannah keeps this information to herself, although she begins to develop a friendship with Olivia. Despite the relief of Maddie’s improved health, Olivia continues to live under a shadow – that of her increasingly abusive husband, James. As she and Hannah grow closer, Olivia’s secret threatens to come to light – and there’s no telling what kind of danger she and Maddie will be put in if that happens.

Safe With Me is an emotionally charged tale of tragedy, grief, loneliness, friendship, secrets, and second chances. There are many weighty issues dealt with here: organ donation, domestic violence, teens and the internet, and the relationships between both women and women and their daughters. Havatny managed to touch on each of these issues more than lightly, but without delving extremely deeply into any one, thus keeping the story from becoming too strongly pulled into one direction.

Amy-HatvanyI was definitely touched by this gripping and heart-wrenching tale. I had already heard good  things about Amy Havatny’s writing, and I now look forward to reading more of her work. If you are in the market for a touchy-feely, emotional roller-coaster ride, this may be the book for you.

Safe With Me by Amy Havatny. Buy it, read it, love it.

3.5 out of 5

Source: Washington Square Press {via NetGalley}

 

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