The Mourning Hours

The Mourning Hours

by Paula Treick DeBoard


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780778314974
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication date: 06/25/2013
Edition description: Original
Pages: 321
Sales rank: 333,660
Product dimensions: 5.84(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.88(d)

About the Author

Paula Treick DeBoard lives with her husband Will and their four-legged brood in Modesto, CA. She received a BA in English from Dordt College, an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine and a practical education from countless students in her English classes over the years. The Mourning Hours is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt


Everything you needed to know, Dad said, you could learn on a farm. He was talking about things my mind, shaped by Bible stories and the adventures of Dick and Jane, could barely comprehend—the value of hard work, self-sufficiency, the life cycle of all things. Well, the life cycle—I did understand that. Things were always being born on farms, and always dying. And as for how they came to be in the first place, that was no great mystery. "They're mating," Dad would explain when I worried over a bull that seemed to be attacking a helpless heifer. "It's natural," he said, when the pigs went at it, when the white tom from Mel Wegner's farm visited and we ended up with litters of white kittens.

Nature wasn't just ladybugs and fireflies—it was dirt and decay and, sometimes, death. To grow up on a farm was to know the smell of manure, to understand that the gawky calves that suckled my fingers would eventually be someone's dinner. It was to witness the occasional birth of a half-formed calf, missing eyes or ears, like some alien-headed baby. We couldn't drive into town without seeing the strange, bloodied remains of animals—cats, opossums and the occasional skunk who had risked it all for one final crossing. By the time we got Kennel, our retriever-collie mix, we'd had three golden Labs, each more loyal than the last, until they ran away during thunderstorms or wandered into the path of an oncoming semi headed down Rural Route 4. When Dad had spotted him at the county shelter, Kennel had a torn ear, a limp in his back left leg and ribs you could spot from a hundred yards away—the marks of an abusive owner.

Even humans couldn't avoid their fates. Sipping lemonade from a paper cup after the Sunday morning service, I weaved between adult conversations, catching little snatches as I went. A tractor had tipped over, trapping the farmer underneath. Cows kicked, and workers were hurt. Pregnant women, miles from any hospital, went into early labor. Machines were always backfiring, shirtsleeves getting caught in their mechanisms. This was to say nothing of lightning strikes, icy roads and snowdrifts, or flash floods and heat waves. This was to say nothing of all the things that could go wrong inside a person.

So we were used to death in our stoic, farm-bred way. It was part of the natural order of things: something was born, lived its life and died—and then something else replaced it. I knew without anyone telling me that it was this way with people, too.

Take my family, for example—the Hammarstroms. My great-great-grandpa had settled our land and passed on the dairy to his son, who passed it to Grandpa, who passed it on to Dad, who would pass it on to Johnny. Dad and Mom had gotten married and had Johnny right after Dad graduated from high school, leaving Mom to get her degree later on, after Emilie and I were born. I'd always thought it was extremely cool that our parents were so much younger than everyone else's parents, until Emilie spelled out for me that it was something of a scandal. Anyway, when Johnny had been born, Grandpa and Grandma had moved to the inlaw house next door, where Dad and Mom would someday move, when it was time for Johnny and his wife to inherit the big house. This was simply the expected order of things, as natural as the corn being sown, thinned, watered, fertilized and harvested. Everything that was born would die one day. I knew this, because death was all around me.

There was Grandma, for one. I was too young to have any concrete memories of her death, although I'd pieced together the facts from whispered conversations. She'd been standing in her kitchen, peeling apple after apple, when it happened. A pulmonary embolism, whatever that was. A freak thing. I couldn't walk into Grandpa's kitchen without thinking: Was it here? Was this the spot? But life had gone on without her. Grandpa stood at that sink every morning, drinking a cup of coffee and staring out the window.

The first funeral I remember attending was for our neighbor, Karl Warczak, who'd collapsed in his manure pit, overwhelmed by the fumes. An ambulance had rushed past on Rural Route 4, and Dad and Mom had followed—Mom because she had just completed her training as a nurse, Dad because he and Karl Warczak had worked together over the years, helping with each other's animals, planting, harvesting, tinkering with stubborn machinery. By the time they'd pulled in behind the ambulance, Dad had said later, it had already been too late—sometimes, he'd explained, the oxygen just got sucked out of those pits.

Mom had laid out my clothes the night before the funeral—a hand-me-down navy wool jumper that seemed to itch its way right through my turtleneck, thick white tights and a pair of too-big Mary Janes with a tissue wadded into the toes. She'd always been optimistic that I would grow into things soon. During the service I'd sat sandwiched between Mom and Emilie, willing myself not to look directly at the coffin. The whole ashes-to-ashes, dust-to-dust thing made me feel a little sick to my stomach once I really thought about it, and so did Mom's whisper that the funeral home had done "such a good job" with Mr. Warczak. It was incredible that he was really dead, that he had been here one minute and was gone the next, that he would never again pat me on the head with his dirtencrusted fingers. There had been such a solemn strangeness to the whole affair, with the organ music and the fussy bouquets of flowers, the men in their dark suits and the women in navy dresses, their nude pantyhose swishing importantly against their long slips.

"It is not for us to question God's perfect timing," Pastor Ziegler had intoned from the pulpit, but I remember thinking that the timing wasn't so great—not if you were Mr. Warczak, who thought he could fix the problem with the manure pump and then head inside for lunch, and not for his son, Jerry, who had been about to graduate from Lincoln High School and head off to a veterinary training program. The rumor had been that Mrs. Warczak's cancer was back, too, and this time it was inoperable. "That boy's going to need our help," Dad had told us when we were back in the car, riding with the windows open. "It's a damn shame."

"Why did it happen?" I'd asked from my perch on top of a stack of old phone books in the backseat. I could just see out the window from that height—the miles of plowed and planted and fenced land that I would know blindfolded.

"Why did he die?"

"It was an accident. Just a tragic accident," Mom had said, blotting her eyes with a wad of tissue. She'd been up all morning, helping in the church kitchen with the ham and cheese sandwiches that were somehow a salve for grief. When we'd parked in our driveway, she'd gathered up a handful of soggy tissues and shut the door behind her.

"Oh, pumpkin," Dad had said as he sighed when I'd lingered in the backseat, arms folded across my jumper, waiting for a better answer. He'd promised to head over to the Warczaks' house later, to help Jerry out. "It's just how things go. It's the way things are." He'd reached over, giving my shoulder a quick squeeze in his no-nonsense, farmer-knows-best way.

Somehow, despite all the years that passed, I never forgot this conversation, the way Dad's eyes had glanced directly into mine, the way his mustache had ridden gently on top of his lips as he'd delivered the message. He couldn't have known the tragedies that were even then growing in our soil, waiting to come to harvest.

All he could do was tell me to prepare myself, to buck up, to be ready—because the way the world worked, you never could see what was coming.

I would always remember the summer of 1994 as an unbroken string of humid days, the air thick and sticky late into the evening. It was the summer of the Fifth Annual Watankee Softball Tournament, and a summer I'd never forget. Mom had seen the announcement in the St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church bulletin on a Sunday morning and, looking for an activity to keep us from uninterrupted hours in front of the television, had signed us up by that night.

"It'll be fun," Mom said, urging us into action. "I can see it now—The Hammarstrom Hitters."

Emilie rolled her eyes. "More like The Hammarstrom Quitters."

We practiced on our front lawn, using tree trunks as bases and chasing Johnny's powerful home runs until they disappeared into our cornfield. Johnny had been dying for action all spring, ever since he'd dislocated his elbow during wrestling semifinals and had been forced to sit in the bleachers at State, his left arm swaddled from shoulder to wrist. By June, Johnny's arm had healed and he was ready to resume his status as a local hero.

We piled out of Mom's Caprice Classic an hour before our first game at Fireman's Field, Johnny leading the charge. Dad followed him, whistling, tossing a ball and catching it in his glove. Emilie slumped behind Dad, her hands in her jeans pockets. "This is going to be so boring," she'd protested on the way over. "Almost as boring as staying home."

Mom waited for me to free myself from my roost in the middle of the backseat and leaned over, shutting the door behind me. She pointed to the encyclopedia-sized book I carried, Myths and Half-True Tales. "You're bringing that with you?"

I considered. I was too small for softball, too small for most things—I needed a boost from the top rung to reach the monkey bars and a step stool to see the top of my head in the bathroom mirror. It went without saying that I couldn't swing a bat by myself, and that a fly ball would probably knock me down.

"What if I get bored?" I replied.

Mom and I walked toward the infield, where Bud Hirsch, captain of Hirsch's Haybalers, waited with his clipboard. He took one look at me and, with his massive gut thrust forward, said, "You here to watch, shorty?" He chuckled as I sidled away, offended, and turned away to bark orders at the rest of the team. Johnny was going to start out in left field, Dad at first base.

Mom leaned down to me. "Never mind him. You can share my position with me if you want."

"No, thanks," I said. "I'll just watch."

During the warm-up, I sat cross-legged on the bench in the dugout, leaning back against the chain-link fence. Bud Hirsch's son, Raymond, was pitching slow arcing lobs to Sandy Maertz, a member of our church. Dad, Johnny and the rest of the men in the infield passed the ball back and forth, rolling grounders and tossing fly balls. Mom stood awkwardly in right field, waiting to be included.

The other team, Loetze's Lions, was starting to arrive, and the bleachers on both sides were beginning to fill up. Someone unlocked the concessions stand, flipped the wooden door down, and raised the Watankee Elementary Academic Boosters Club banner. The money raised tonight would finance our school field trips to the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc and our less academic but equally inspiring annual visits to Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

I tracked Emilie as she made her way up to the top row of the bleachers, her honey-blond hair swinging behind her. It amazed me how she moved, how much confidence she had. A year ago she'd been a clumsy eighth grader. Now she was ready to take Lincoln High School by storm. "I'm going to join pep band," she'd announced to me proudly when we were lying side by side in our twin beds one night. A shard of moonlight had fallen through the curtains and cut her slim body in half—her hipbones and long legs on one side, the small buds of her breasts, like plum halves, on the other.

"Why do you want to be in pep band?" I'd asked, thinking of the few football games I'd attended in my life. The pep band was a group of shivering kids who took the field at halftime after the cheerleading routine, right about when half the stands decided they needed a hot dog or a trip to the bathroom. "Those kids never get to watch the game."

"I don't care about the stupid game," Emilie had said, sighing dramatically. "I want people to watch me."

Bud Hirsch called my attention back to the game with two toots on his whistle. "All right! Switch it up!" Our team started a slow jog through the infield to our dugout, and Loetze's Lions took a turn at their warm-ups.

Panting as he came off the diamond, Dad gave me a high five—as if by staying out of the way, I'd performed some huge feat.

I slid from the bench. "Can I have a dollar?"

"Sure." Dad dug in his pocket and came up with a handful of change.

"Stay close," Mom said.

I could feel her eyes on me as I walked behind the batter's box, my feet kicking up little swirls of dust that instantly coated my tennis shoes. I resisted the urge to hike up my shorts, Emilie's from years before. Sometimes I hated the way Mom looked at me, like I was a medical specimen.

A dollar bought me a can of Coke and three blue Pixy Stix, the kind of pure-sugar pleasure I was never allowed at home. Clutching the soda in one hand and my book in the other, I scanned the bleachers for a place to sit. A few people from church smiled encouragingly in my direction, but I spotted Emilie in the center of a tight, whispering circle of recent Watankee Elementary graduates and changed course. A few of my own soon-to-be-fourth-grade classmates were sitting in the stands with their parents, but we glanced away from each other with summertime awkwardness, as if we knew we weren't meant to connect again until the Tuesday after Labor Day.

I lugged my volume of Myths and Half-True Tales to a shady spot beneath the bleachers and opened to the dogeared page on Atlantis. The game began and cheers erupted.

We were only a mile or so from our farm, but to hear Dad yell, "Hammer one home, Hammarstrom!" during Johnny's turn at bat was to imagine that we'd been transported somewhere far away, like an island in the South Pacific. Dad was only here at all because he'd worked out a deal with Jerry Warczak: Jerry, who had no interest in soft-ball, would cover Dad's last milking on these nights if Dad and Johnny would lend him a hand on Saturdays with the chickens. This was typical of the sort of deals they worked out. "It's just being neighborly," Dad had explained to me, but it had seemed that he was being more than neighborly when he'd clapped Jerry on the shoulder and said, "He's like another son to me."

When the noise of the game finally faded into the background, I spent the next few innings reading about Atlantis and wondering how a city could go missing—poof!—just like that. What would happen if Watankee, Wisconsin, and all the people I knew were to fall off the face of the earth one day—a sudden crack, then a quick slide into Lake Michigan? How long until the rest of the world missed us?

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The Mourning Hours 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I recently received this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads and boy am I glad I did! I was a little wary when I saw that it was a Harlequin book because I usually try to avoid those types of books but it was not what I expected from a Harlequin at all. The Mourning Hours tells the story of what happened the year Kirsten was 9 years old. The author hooks you at the very beginning when Kirsten returns home for the first time in a very long time and you just know something bad happened that has caused her to stay away. As we learn about Kirsten's past you get sucked into her world. You feel like you are this 9 year old girl who is too young to really understand what is going on. When everything begins to fall apart you understand and feel her confusion. Once I hit about the halfway point I could not put this book down. I was wrapped up in the mystery, trying to figure out what had really happened, who was guilty and who wasn't. And then once I reached the end and found out the truth, I was shocked, just like the characters in the book. the author does a fantastic job of keeping you on the edge of your seat and wanting more while wondering exactly what happened. If you love crime shows and mysteries, this is a must read!
spring25 More than 1 year ago
I'm from the area where this story takes place. The author was featured in an article in our local newspaper, so I was curious about this book. I was not disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A book you cant stop reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book grips your interest right from the start. One of the best books I have read so far this summer!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't wait for her future books. Loved this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is not as good as i had expected it to be. It seemed to drag on for a while without getting anywhere. Stacy is one of the only characters that had any descriptive features. It is hard to visualize the other characters because they are not clearly defined. It was very hard for me to get into this book and i am disappointed that it got such great reviews. Its nothing more than average to me.
MomcatKL More than 1 year ago
My daughter recommended this book to me. She was right, I really enjoyed reading it. Once I got started it was hard to put down. The story is told from the view point of nine year old Kirsten. She feels responsible in some ways for the tragedy that strikes their family when her brother's girlfriend disappears and suspicion falls on him. Kirsten thinks she is the one who helped them get together. She also feels guilty about incidents she witnesses but does not understand. The story resolves years later when the family reunites and returns to the small town where it all happened.
Lynn-MI More than 1 year ago
This was honestly an astounding story of a family and the tragedy that tainted and changed all their lives from the day of the occurrence until the death of an abandoned family member! Told from the youngest family member with deep understanding of what she was learning and experiencing during their lives. The book is written well, the plot scary and heartbreaking --- really good read with a disturbing ending!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like to read while on the elliptical. I have my favorite authors but sometimes I get caught up with their books so I need to find new favorite authors. Our local paper had an article on this local author so I thought I would support her. I loved "The Mourning Hours" and can't wait to start her next book tomorrow. This book really let me forget I was on the elliptical! I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
EXCELLENT book! Highly recommend. Great characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yep, this is a good book!
quaintinns More than 1 year ago
The Mourning Hours, another winner by Paula Treick DeBoard! Set aside the time, as this is a powerful book to read without interruptions. Coming in audio format 10/28/14. Be sure and check out DeBoard's upcoming novel The Fragile World! 5 Stars, 10/28/14. Two "must read" books, you will not want to miss! The novel will leave you pondering, “If this is a debut, what is yet to come?” After reading this gripping page-turner filled with metaphors, and an advanced reading copy of her upcoming, The Fragile World, readers are in for a rare treat! A talented author to follow for years to come; her unique writing style captures you from page one, and never lets go, even after the book ends. What a master storyteller! Both novels, as well as the characters, are so realistic; the slow unraveling of families, caused by grief and tragedy . . . the same could happen to you. How would you react? The book opens with Kirsten Hammarstrom, who resides in California and is on her way home to Wisconsin to her family home, with a lifetime of memories, both good and bad. Before the tragic event and after, when their world as she cherished, comes crumbling down. Somewhere deep inside she has been clutching her childhood in a tight fist, attempting to release and let it go. One night so long ago, when everything changed for one small town rural family with deep history and roots. A mother, father, son, and daughters, and an entire community. What could have changed the course of the events to follow? Told from Kirsten’s point of view, flashing back from present to 1994-1995 when she was nine years old. An intuitive and observant little girl, daughter of dairy farmers, loving parents, where life was pretty normal on the farm, from great-great parents passed down. Things were always being born on farms, and always dying. And as for how they came to be in the first place, that was no great mystery. DeBoard writes from the heart, with flawed characters, vivid settings, real families, emotional subjects, and riveting suspense family drama, grabbing you by the heart strings, as this could be your neighbor, or even you. A powerful account of loyalty, betrayal, and forgiveness. DeBoard’s writing style is unique and powerful and hard to compare to similar authors. However, fans of Diane Chamberlain, Donna Ball and Emilie Richards with the suspense and thrill of Paul Cleave, will appreciate her theme of family, as they are tested and tried through life’s messiness. One of my new favorite authors! Highly recommend!
suusue More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It was a very well written novel about a family who were very close and after one accident, changed their lives forever and a young man's future torn. I started this book and after the first 20 pages, was hooked and couldn't put down. It wound thru your heart thru the very end. Fantastic author, can't wait for her next book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
putting this book down. I have already checked o see what else she has written and its on a pre order and can't wait to read it!! buy this book and u won't be sorry!
CG12839 More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this book. Characters were realistic and storyline moved quickly. Enjoyed plot and details. Would recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very emotional and thought-provoking. Couldn't put it down!
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catabou More than 1 year ago
I really like this story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book kept me guessing at all times. Who was the killer. The characters and circumstances were very realistic. I can usually figure out the killer but not with this one and I love that! Surprise ending. Well worth reading.
rosie588 More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. Excellent mystery !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. The Wisconsin setting made the story more realistic. Read this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written........grabbed me from the start !!!!! It is a novel that grabs and does not want to let you go put it down !!!!! Simply put AWESOME !!!!! Loved it !!!! Looking forward to read more from this author !!!
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