The In-Between Hour

The In-Between Hour

by Barbara Claypole White


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What could be worse than losing your child? Having to pretend he's still alive…

Bestselling author Will Shepard is caught in the twilight of grief, after his young son dies in a car accident. But when his father's aging mind erases the memory, Will rewrites the truth. The story he spins brings unexpected relief…until he's forced to return to rural North Carolina, trapping himself in a lie.

Holistic veterinarian Hannah Linden is a healer who opens her heart to strays but can only watch, powerless, as her grown son struggles with inner demons. When she rents her guest cottage to Will and his dad, she finds solace in trying to mend their broken world, even while her own shatters.

As their lives connect and collide, Will and Hannah become each other's only hope—if they can find their way into a new story, one that begins with love.

"A moving story about the challenges of OCD and grief combined with the power of the human spirit to find love in the most unlikely of places." —Eye on Romance on The Unfinished Garden

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780778314752
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication date: 12/31/2013
Edition description: Original
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 5.45(w) x 8.22(h) x 1.03(d)

About the Author

Barbara Claypole White writes love stories about damaged people. She grew up in rural England, studied history at York University, and worked in London fashion before marrying an American professor she met at JFK airport. Today they live in the forests of North Carolina with their award-winning poet son. Despite detours through journalism and marketing, Barbara chased her dream of becoming a novelist and was thrilled to find a publisher months before turning 50. Never give up is her motto!

Read an Excerpt

Will imagined silence. The silence of snowfall in the forest. The silence at the top of a crag. But eighty floors below his roof garden, another siren screeched along Central Park West.

Nausea nibbled—a hungry goldfish gumming him to death. Maybe this week's diet of Zantac and PBR beer was to blame. Or maybe grief was a degenerative disease, destroying him from the inside out. Dissolving his organs. One. By. One.

The screensaver on his MacBook Air, a rainbow of tentacles that had once reminded him to watch for shooting stars, mutated into a kraken: an ancient monster dragging his life beneath the waves. How long since he'd missed his deadline? His agent had been supportive, his editor generous, but patience—even for clients who churned out global bestsellers—expired.

Another day when he'd failed to resuscitate his crap work-in-progress; another day when Agent Dodds continued to dangle from the helicopter; another day without a strategy for his hero of ten years that wasn't a fatal "Let go, dude. Just let go."

The old-fashioned ring tone of his iPhone burst into the night as expected. Almost on cue. His dad's memory might be jouncing around too much for either of them to follow, but it continued to hold both their lives hostage.

Answer, aim for the end of the call, get there.

"Hey, Dad."

"Fucking bastards. They're—"

"Fucking bastards. You told me earlier." Fifty-seven minutes earlier.

Finally, this vacuous loop of repetition had given them conversation, and always it started with the same two words: fucking bastards.

"Fucking bastards won't let me sit out and talk to the crows. Took away my bird call. Said I were disturbin' folks."

"We talked about this last time you called, Dad." Will kept his voice flat, even. Calm. Defusing anger was an old skill—the lone positive side effect of his batshit-insane childhood. And emotional distance? He had that honed before he'd turned eighteen. "I told you I'd look at the contract in the morning. And you promised to take a temazepam and go to bed."

There had to be some way to persuade the old man to meet with a psychologist, some way to unpick the damage of Jack Nicholson's performance in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

"Fucking bastards. Want to steal my Wild Turkey, too."

His dad veered off on the usual rant: trash the staff of Hawk's Ridge Retirement Community—check; pause to exclude the new art teacher with the cute smile—check; ask Will when he last noticed a woman's smile—check; hurl expletives at ol' possum face, the director—check. Strange, how the old man failed to drop his g's with the f word.

A retired grave digger who'd dropped out of school at sixteen to work in the cotton mill—third shift—Jacob Shepard might refer to himself as dumber than a rock, but he'd read every history book in the Orange County Library before retirement. The old man was an underachiever by choice, devoting himself to the only thing that mattered: loving his Angeline.

His dad was cussing again. One obscenity, two obscenities, three obscenities…four.

All those years in the family shack, neither of them had sworn. Wouldn't have dared. Four foot ten, magical and mad, Angeline Shepard had ruled the house with more mood swings than a teenage despot. There had been no room for anyone else to flex temper muscles. Raising a voice in his mother's domain would have been akin to standing in front of the biggest fucking bonfire and pouring on enough gasoline to fuel an Airbus. Great, now he was swearing. Will never swore (batshit didn't count). But since his dad had started calling to unleash rage ten, fifteen times a day, Will's psyche had slipped into battle-fatigue mode.

Will sighed. "There are rules about drinking in your room. You know that."

"I'm eighty years old, son. I reckon I'm old enough to partake, if I so choose."

"But you're a loud drunk, Dad."

"So I pick my banjo—"

"And tell people they're dickheads."

"That's why I don't talk to no one 'cept you. Half them folks in here is dickheads, son. Half them is."

"And the other half?" Will didn't mean to smile.

"Old-timers who get to complainin' about bladder control. At least I don't need no adult diapers, and my health is still good, pretty good. Why you at home of an evenin', son? You need to be out dancin' with an angel like your mama."

"I write at night. You know that, Dad."

Darkness keeps me alive, keeps me on the edge. Keeps me sharp. There was always a moment, in the middle of the night, when the world hardly breathed. When he could write safe in the knowledge that no one would intrude, that he had nothing to fear. But New York Times bestselling author Will Shepard wasn't writing. Wasn't sleeping in his institutional white bedroom, either. These days he catnapped fully clothed on his leather sofa—as if he were a millionaire hobo.

Even when he managed to close his eyes, there was no peace. His favorite dream in which he glided like an owl above the forest had contorted into a nightmare. In his subconscious state, Will didn't drift on air currents anymore—he stumbled through the woods on Occoneechee Mountain. Searching for, but never finding, escape.

"So when you goin' to start livin' that dream of yours, son? Find a woodland property with a driveway that's impassable after a real heavy snowfall?"

"That was a kid's fantasy. I'm never moving back to North Carolina, you know that."

You know that. Why keep bashing his dad over the head with all that he'd forgotten?

A gust of wind whipped through the chocolate mimosa in the huge glazed pot. Buffeted, the delicate leaflets held on and bounced back. You can do this, Will. You can do this.

"The new guy, Bernie, who just moved in down the hall, his grandkids took him to that fancy diner on Main Street last Sunday. You know how long it's been since I've had blueberry pancakes?"

When did the old man start caring about pancakes?

"You know what they give us for breakfast? Little boxes of cereal fit for kids. You know how long it's been since I've eaten anywhere real nice? I want blueberry pancakes. And I want to see my grandbaby, goddamn it. When you bringin' Freddie to visit?"

Time slowed or maybe stopped. Will was at the end of a tunnel, his dad's voice muffled as it said, over and over,


Will's arm shot across the wrought-iron table, smashing an empty water glass to the concrete. A spill of shards spread.

Unwanted memories multiplied, images tumbled: Frederick and Cassandra in the car moments before it crashed; Will driving through the night to Hawk's Ridge with news no grandfather should ever have to hear; his dad flailing and screaming before the security men pinned him down, before a nurse sedated him. And in the months that followed, a neverending cycle of short-term memory loss and anger. The old man vented, forgot, repeated. Alcohol didn't help.

"Freddie with his mama this week?"

Will ground his knuckle into his temple. "Yeah. He's with his mama." A half-truth that kicked him in the chest like a full lie.

Was this his dad's new reality—living with a mind so broken that it found fault with the breakfast menu and yet erased family trauma? Would Will have to constantly torture his dad with the news that had felled them both? Certain sentences, no matter how brief, should never be repeated. Never. If his dad could forget the crash, could he, one day, forget Freddie?

"You tell Freddie's mama to have him call his granddaddy."

"I can't!" Will didn't mean to yell, really, really didn't mean to yell, but he could hear Cassandra taunting him: So, William. You're a father. She always called him William, pronouncing it Willi-amm, treating his name the way she treated life—with a wild exaggeration that had led only to tragedy. A scene flashed—an illusion. A little boy and his mother caught between realms of life and death. Traveling from the plane of existence to a blank page of nothing. "I can't because…they're traveling."

Shallow, jagged breaths stabbed his throat. Blood thundered around his skull; a frenzy of lights exploded across his vision. Airway closing; heart fluttering; pulse yo-yoing.

Will sucked in oxygen with a whooshing sound, then exhaled quietly. He would reduce everything to the skills that enabled him to scale a rock face with his hands and his feet and his mind. He would focus on nothing but finding balance in this moment in time, on finding a good, solid hold.

"I…I don't remember, Willie. I…I can't remember stuff."

This, too, was part of the daily roller coaster. The realization that his grizzly bear of a dad had become a featherless fledgling fallen from the nest. Will could end the conversation right now. Make some excuse and get off the phone. But what was the chance his dad would remember any of this? Zero. Tomorrow would bring a fresh memory wipe. Tomorrow, Will's computer screen would still swirl with patterns, not words. Tomorrow, his five-year-old son would still be dead.

"Where, Willie? Where they travelin'?"

Will stared up at the blinking lights of a jet floating across the black sky, carrying families toward new memories. He'd never taken Freddie on a plane, but he'd planned their first trip in his mind. Europe, they were going to Europe as soon as Freddie was old enough to appreciate the art, the architecture, the history.

"Europe." Will swallowed hard. "Listen, I've gotta go. Get some sleep and we'll talk tomorrow."

"Okay, son. Okay."

Will whispered, "Good night, old man." But the line was dead.

Will scooped up his laptop and walked back into his empty apartment. Out in the hallway, the elevator dinged. A couple passed his front door, stabbing each other with words. The woman would win the fight. She was the one setting the tempo, as Cassandra had done. He'd never figured out why, eighteen months after their affair fizzled, Cass contacted him to suggest he meet the son he hadn't known existed until that very moment. As an heiress she didn't need child support, and the ground rules were set from the beginning: Freddie's my son; you're not listed on the birth certificate; you see him if and when I decide.

He should have fought for his son.

"Munchkin, I'm sorry," Will said.

Sorry for not keeping you safe. Sorry for being a coward.

His cowardice slid out as easily as the fast and furious plots that had made him a thirty-four-year-old literary powerhouse. Corporation Will Shepard careened from success to success, despite the fact that its CEO had been writing-by-numbers for years. When fans looked at him, they saw nothing but the glitter of achievement, which was the way his staff tweeted and scripted his life. Everything was about creating the cardboard cutout.

Only fatherhood was real.

He'd been a good dad—patient, fun, firm. Although there had been a few too many online purchases from FAO Schwarz. Not that he was trying to buy Freddie's love. He'd just wanted Freddie to have everything Will himself had never had. But not in the material sense. A young kid should believe that he was the center of his dad's universe. Because once you realized your happiness mattered to no one but you, life was a slalom ride through loblolly pines—until you crashed into the revelation that all your relationships were severely messed up. Except for fatherhood. From day one, he'd cleared out space physically and psychologically for his son.

Freddie looked at Will—all five feet seven inches of him—and saw a dragon slayer! The invincible hero! A storyteller who could answer the only question that mattered: "What happened next, Daddy?"

Will placed his laptop in the middle of his desk and stared at the drawing on the wall. Two colorful stickmen—one big, one small—were holding hands and celebrating the day they met. March 30. "Happy Our Day," Freddie had said, jumping up and down. "Mommy helped me pick out the frame in a huge store. Huuuuuge!"

Not so long ago, Will had believed that if his apartment were on fire, he would risk everything to save his laptop. But now it contained nothing more than a stalled-out, unnamed manuscript, and his only possession worth saving was Freddie's drawing.

Will flopped onto his leather sofa and covered his eyes with his right arm. Storytelling had always been his escape and his shield. His last line of defense against the truth. And for the first time in his life, he was without a story.

Jacob twisted his hands around the phone. Some thought—just out of reach.

Where you hidin', thought?

It were warm in his room, too warm. All summer, it been too cold. Most non-Carolina folk didn't understand how to live, wanted to be sealed up all nice and tight with air-conditionin'. He and Angeline never had no air-conditionin'. No sir. And now it were too hot. Couldn't even manage his own goddamn heat. But them dickheads, they couldn't control him. They could take away his bird call and try to take away his Wild Turkey—if they could find it. But they didn't know what they was in for, 'cos Jacob Shepard, Jr., eighty years old with a mind shot to shit, were gonna fight.

"Ha," he said, liked the way it sounded and repeated it.


If only he were outside sittin' by a fire, punchin' it with a stick. He'd use hickory on that thing, make it nice and toasty. That were his kind of heat.

Jacob threw the phone on his bed, his narrow only-for-one bed, and heaved open his window. No moonlight tonight, no stars. No owl to call to. No trains. When Angeline disappeared into one of her spells, he would listen for the rumb-lin' and the whistlin' of the trains—sounds as soothin' as real heavy rain on a tin roof.

He inhaled the night. Couldn't see the forest, but it were out there, waitin'. He could smell cedar. Sweetest smell in the world. You burn that stuff and mmm-hmm, fannnntastic. He made a smudge once that were just plum cedar dust. Willie used to love that. Said it were like Christmas all over again.

A man could suffocate in this shithole of a hotel. Stank of bleach and death. 'Course that could be part of the plan to hurry the inmates along their journey to the spirit world. Death were comin' faster than it should, thanks to them dick-heads.

Freddie were on his mind. Freddie.

Freddie loved all them stories about his grave-diggin' granddaddy. Like the time at the cemetery he'd.. what? What had he done? What! He circled his room and concentrated real hard, but that trickster memory kept on hidin' from him.

He slapped the table. White, round, new, Will had bought it without permission. Why'd he keep buyin' furniture and payin' bills as if his daddy couldn't afford to?

He'd been happy in the shack with his memories of Angeline. The good memories, only the good memories. Why couldn't he stay in the shack? He reached for the pen next to the phone and gouged a nice scar into the tabletop. There.

Now the table was all scratched up, like him. Like his shack, like.

Freddie were travelin'! Lucky little scamp.

He'd wanted to travel, take Angeline places, but they couldn't afford the gas to cross the state line. Heck of a woman, his Angeline. Loved a good adventure, yes sir. Best smile in Orange County. Woo-wee! Sweet sixteen and she'd had her pick of the menfolk. Day she stood by his side and spoke her marriage vows, he had to pinch hisself into believin'. But no, he weren't thinkin' about his Angeline, his angel. Freddie! That's right, Freddie.

Freddie were travelin', going places his granddaddy couldn't imagine.

Jacob grabbed an unopened envelope and scrawled "Ask Will about Freddie's trip" across the back. Look at that. Goddamn hand had the shakes. Better have another drink to stop them tremors. But first he was gonna stick his note on the fridge. Get to his age and you'd forget half your life if you didn't write it down.

C.R.S., can't remember stuff. But this, this, he wanted to remember.

He'd write another note, and another and another. Tape one to the phone on his nightstand, so he could see it at sunrise. And he'd buy a map. Heck, a big world map! Take the shuttle to the Walmart and buy a map. Nail it to the wall! That would annoy them dickheads. And he'd label it My Grandson's Great European Adventure.

Ha! Take that, Bernie down the hall!

Maybe he'd follow Willie's advice and get some sleep. Tomorrow were gonna be a real fine day. He had a project and it didn't involve sittin' on his ass in the arts and crafts room with tissue paper and a pair of safety scissors.

Customer Reviews

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The In-Between Hour 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Constance4794 More than 1 year ago
The In-Between Hour is every bit as engaging as White's first novel, The Unfinished Garden.  Hannah, William, Poppy, Jacob, and Galen are all imperfect people. Hannah has trouble setting boundaries. Hannah and Will both have secrets that need to be revealed. Poppy is a free spirit with the realities of the world closing in on her. Jacob mourns the loss of his beloved wife and doesn't want his son, Will to put him in an old folks home. Will can't understand his father's grief. He only remembers his mother as unstable and embarrassing. Galen is a young man with a death wish and his own secrets. These five characters come along side one another, and sometimes they help, and sometimes they hurt, which isn't intentional, it is just how humans unfortunately respond to one another.  There are delightful scenes that will make you laugh, harrowing scenes that will make you flinch, and of course touching scenes that will bring tears to your eyes.
Bitten-By-Love-Reviews More than 1 year ago
The In-Between Hour by Barbara Claypool White is an extremely emotional and poignant read. The various storylines converge into an incredibly powerful story of healing that has left me breathless and in awe. It is an engaging and thought provoking story that pulls you in and make it very hard to do anything else. I love a book that makes me stop and reflect on what is most important in life and The In-Between Hour will make you do just that.This book for me was about how do you deal with living when your grief just makes you want to die? How do you allow yourself to be happy when you have lost a loved one? As in life, there are no simple characters in this novel, each is layered and flawed, but all are beautifully crafted by the immensely talented author, Barbara Claypole White. I would highly recommend The In- Between Hour.It will appeal to all readers who have had to deal with loss and grief. Also to those who just love a beautifully written novel with wonderful characters and will leave you with emotions that will linger long after you have closed the book.
PaulineMA More than 1 year ago
Barbara Claypole White may be my new favorite author. I loved this book even more than I loved The Perfect Son. Touching on so many points- suicide, mental health, parenting, loss, aging, dementia and love. It's hard to imagine one story touching all those points and doing it well but Barbara does it. The characters are real, well developed and connect in surprising ways. Read this book, you won't be disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was great, it pulls you in and doesn't let you go until the end. Barbara White gives you everything you could ask for in a book plus more. Read it, you won't be sorry you did!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author is very good at describing scenery and making you feel like you are there, but the story just wasn't that good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Human frailty, family drama, and hope make this a great read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is wonderful!
SharonChance More than 1 year ago
I have been a fan of Barbara Claypole White's writing since I read her previous book, the brilliant "The Unfinished Garden." So I looked forward to her new book, "The In-Between Hour" with great anticipation - and I was not disappointed one bit! This novel, revolving around two families and their ongoing dramas, is written in many voices, but all circle back to the main theme of the sustaining love of family through troubled times. There are so many subjects addressed in this story - loss of a child, loss of a parent to Alzeheimer's, loss of self, family relationships, personal relationships, and how patience and love can help heal all of these very trying situations. There are tears and tragedy, rebellion and romance, and surprisingly a light touch of humor sprinkled here and there - making this tale one that draws the reader in and keeps them invested in the outcome. White proves once again her mastery of storytelling with this heart-wrenching, and yet heartwarming novel. Fans of contemporary women's fiction and family relationships will find this novel to be a satisfying and memorable read. I highly recommend it!
MomcatKL More than 1 year ago
The book tugged at my heartstrings from the beginning. The main character, bestselling author Will Shepard, has lost is young son in a tragic car accident and must deal with the challenges of caring for his aging father who suffers from short-term memory loss. The other important character is Hannah Linden, a holistic veterinarian, who is facing her own challenge of how to help her grown son who is struggling with severe depression. The book touched me as both a parent and as an adult child coping with the challenges of aging parents. Ultimately, it is a story of finding love and hope again. Will’s young son, Freddie, recently died in a car accident and grief has taken over his life. His father who suffers from short-term memory loss believes the boy is still alive. Will can’t face telling him over and over about the accident so he creates a story about how Freddie is traveling in Europe with his mother. When Will’s father is kicked out of the retirement facility, Will has to find a new place for him. One of the volunteers at the facility tells him about a small house that might be available. When he calls Hannah to inquire about the house she surprises herself by agreeing to rent it. Hannah had planned to let her son, Galen, move into it when he comes home from the hospital but decides that having him in her house is better. Galen was hospitalized after threatening suicide. As both Will and Hannah struggle with what to do they begin to support each other. Hannah reaches out to Will’s father and Will, reluctantly at first, reaches out to Galen. They also find themselves drawn to each other. Disclosure: I received this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An excellent read! A must have!
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Quite the dramatic book!  And completely focused on characters, so with only a little action, this book took a lot of concentration!  Will is a famous author and Hannah is a veterinarian living in North Carolina.  The setting and Will's occupation are the two things that drew me too this book and kept the book going for me.   To read about the process of a big time author and how a reading slump can occur was very interesting.  Although I have no desire to be an author, I find their lives to be intriguing as to how they find their inspiration and spend countless hours developing an idea into a full novel.  I enjoyed reading about Will going through writer's block and how personal events in an author's life can affect their craft. 
Litwriter More than 1 year ago
The In-Between Hour is a story about memories: those repeated, to oneself and others, in order to fondly preserve the past; those that fade and, maddeningly, are lost; and those that inflame or torment so acutely they become prisons for both heart and mind. Barbara Claypole White’s  vividly rendered characters find themselves circling around their own closely held memories, unaware that the people around them possess a special, often surprising inner capacity to reframe and redirect even the most constricting recollections into a path to healing. Will Shepard, Manhattan-based author of a bestselling thriller series, has writer’s block, paralyzed by the violent death of his five-year-old son Freddie and badgered by constant calls from his octogenarian father Jacob, battling both Alzheimer’s and the status quo of his North Carolina retirement center. When Jacob’s unruly behavior leads to an unceremonious eviction, Will returns to his home state, newly burdened with a needy father, who lovingly recalls his deceased mentally ill wife, the mother who made Will’s childhood a living hell. What Jacob doesn’t recall is his grandson’s recent death. Rather than subject his father to a reprise of grief, Will tells Jacob that Freddie is on an extended globe-trotting trip with his mother. Determined to find a new facility for Jacob and return to New York, Will rents a cottage from Hannah Linden, a holistic vet with her own family secrets. Older son Galen, a gifted poet too troubled to write, will soon arrive from California, freshly discharged from a psychiatric unit after an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Will’s determination to leave the area, embedded with painful memories of his mother, is stymied when he can’t find a new facility for Jacob.  Keeping up the pretense of his son’s vacation becomes increasingly difficult as Will struggles with his own grief. He forges an unlikely relationship with Galen, who disparages Will’s writing as little more than trash. Hannah and her friend Poppy, meanwhile, devote themselves to the forgetful Jacob, who ensconces himself in the cottage he now considers home. Alliances intertwine, the strands tightening as Hannah and Will find themselves increasingly attracted to one another, and Galen secretly rejects both his meds and contact with his California therapist. The reader can’t help but be captivated by the story’s inexorably escalating tension, its human drama mirrored in nature, whose unseasonable heat builds until the release of a violent, drought-breaking storm. As in White’s sensitive debut novel The Unfinished Garden, the characters in The In-Between Hour are vulnerable, scarred by the past, yet slowly drawn to risk themselves and share their journeys to emotional liberation with similarly burdened companions. This new narrative, while fraught with its characters’ grief, reflects a constant, if occasionally shadowed light of hope not unlike the golden window of peace and possibility offered, again and again, by the in-between hour better known as the gloaming.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Barbara Claypole has a knack for the damaged. She writes about people and situations that lesser authors might shy away from. Her powerful, fluid and brilliant descriptions carry the characters and circumstance while intertwining their lives and creating, chapter by chapter, a story that has the reader mesmerized. Hannah and Galen and Jacob are well fleshed out, while her protagonist, Will, is equally represented, adding a serving of sexy intrigue into the mix. The In-Between Hour is a dynamic blend of family drama and human frailties, surrounded by great writing! It also makes a terrific book club read!
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
I admit that it took me about one-third of the way through Barbara Claypole White's The In-Between Hour to really start to appreciate it, but once I hit that mark, I could not put it down. Will Shepard is a best-selling writer of a fictional series featuring a James Bond-like hero, Agent Dodds. He lost his five-year-old son Freddie in a fiery car crash with his son's mother four months ago, and there seems to be some question as to whether she crashed the car deliberately. He is in unbearable pain, made worse by the fact that his elderly father doesn't remember that Freddie is dead. Every time his father brings up Freddie, Will has to tell him Freddie is dead and his father's grief reignites his own. Will has to go back home to North Carolina to move his father from the nursing home where he has been kicked out.  Poole's description of the nursing home as "a place inhabited by nothing but echoes" is so evocative. With nowhere to go, they end up at the guest cabin owned by a local veterinarian, Hannah, who is hurting as well. Hannah's adult son Galen suffers from severe depression and recently tried to kill himself. He is moving back home, and Hannah is at a loss as to how to help her son. She has hidden from him the fact that her own father killed himself, and Hannah is panicked that Galen has inherited the depression that took her father's life. Will and Hannah are fragile. Hannah handled her life by becoming a "people pleaser with (expletive) boundaries" as Galen describes her.  Will handled his terrible childhood by leaving as soon as he could. Will's mother suffered from serious mental illness, and his father tried to care for her at home, which left Will the odd man out. His mom would get drunk, and was probably bi-polar. His father would try to keep Will safe by telling him to go his room and shut the door, and one of the best lines in the book reflects this. "Most of his family life had happened on the other side of his bedroom door." Poole's book deals with single parenthood, childhood traumas, depression, loneliness and family secrets. In her unique setting of the Occoneechee Mountains in North Carolina, she brings the native American tribe of the Occaneech Band of the Saponi Nation into the story through Will and his father, and I found that so interesting. The Reader's Guide with discussion questions and a listening guide added a great deal to the story for me. I've already created a playlist with the listening guide suggestions. Although this is a love story, there is so much more to it. As the mother of two adult sons, like Hannah, I appreciated her relationships with her sons. Not only were the main character of Will and Hannah wonderful and real, so were the minor ones, including Will's dad, Galen and Poppy, Hannah's free-spirit friend. Watching Will and Hannah work their way through their problems and pain was a journey well worth taking.