When Hannah Benson was 17, she fled her brutal father, who had discovered her kissing local boy Grady Steadman. Later that night, her father was found dead, bludgeoned with a frying pan. Twenty years on, Grady, now the Clearfield, Va., sheriff, tracks Hannah down to deliver more bad news: her mother has died, making Hannah the only living relation of her niece Anna, a 15-year-old girl she didn’t know her sister, dead five years, had even had. Though a long-held secret about the night she left makes Hannah reluctant to return home, she does, meeting Anna. As Hannah becomes overwhelmed by the past, Grady knows she’s never told him the truth, and threatens a custody battle over Anna unless Hannah comes clean. As Hannah and Grady navigate reigniting their old attraction, the truth proves difficult to pin down. In delivering a touching tale of trauma, healing, and family, McComas doesn’t shy away from violence, likely disturbing to some readers, but she wields it carefully. Hannah’s understandable inability to trust is more than just a roadblock to her relationship with the unfortunately stereotypical Grady, who’s far too good to be true. Despite some of the conflicts feeling contrived and easily surmountable, McComas builds the relationship between Hannah and Anna deftly, showing how hard it can be for strangers who happen to be family to know each other. Agent: Denise Marcil Literary Agency. (Feb.)
Blending poignancy with humor, crafting characters as real and recognizable as your next-door neighbor, Mary Kay McComas weaves stories that brighten the heart.
I love Mary Kay McComas. Her books are honest and real, and transport you to a place that feels like home.
It is hard not to be moved by the tender love story that emerges from the depths of violence in this haunting and touching novel. You will never forget What Happened To Hannah.
Hannah Benson is a memorable character of uncommon strength. From the unthinkable horror of the past to the glimmering possibility of love in the present, What Happened to Hannah is a stirring novel of family and redemption.
McComas...writes a bittersweet tale of homecoming.
...a vibrant, haunting tale of a woman trying to discard the past once and for all in order to begin again. A powerful story with a beautiful plot that will have readers routing for peace, romance, and second chances.
Mary Kay McComas has written a poignant tale of the prolonged effects of domestic abuse.
Hannah Benson has been hiding in plain sight at her Baltimore insurance firm since she ran away from home 20 years ago, the night her mother finally killed Hannah's abusive father. Most of Hannah's Clearfield, VA, neighbors, including old boyfriend Grady Steadman, assumed her father had killed his oldest daughter as a swan song. Still, Hannah is surprised when Grady, having learned the truth several years ago, calls with the news that her mother has died, leaving behind Hannah's 15-year-old niece, Anna, whom Hannah didn't know existed. She didn't even know her sister, Ruth, had died five years earlier. Track star Anna needs her family, and the now-divorced Grady, father of two teens of his own and Clearfield's sheriff, thinks Hannah is the answer. Despite her lack of maternal instincts, Hannah is captivated by the lovely and graceful Anna. Maybe she can manage until her niece turns 18, just not in Clearfield and not in proximity to Grady. VERDICT McComas (coauthor, The Unquiet) delivers a soulful examination of how children survive brutality by developing a hard shell of distrust. Can patience and love from Grady and Anna help to make the past recede for Hannah? A satisfying and well-written read. [Online reading group guide.]—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal
She left her hometown 20 years ago, and no one has heard from her since. Is she even still alive? What could have been so horrific as to not only drive her away but also keep her away for so long? McComas (Necessary Changes, 2001, etc.) gives Hannah Benson an intriguing past to uncover. After her mother and sister have passed away, leaving her teenaged niece, Anna, in need of a guardian, Hannah gets a call out of the blue from Grady Steadman, her childhood sweetheart. Now sheriff of Clearfield, Va., Grady must persuade Hannah to come back for Anna. It could be a tough sell: Hannah has spent the last 20 years making a very safe life for herself, avoiding romance and even building a career in insurance. Little does Grady suspect that coming home will force Hannah to face the demons of her past: an abusive father, a dysfunctional family and a town that let it all happen. Of course, the reader can guess all this within the first few pages. Despite her misgivings, Hannah will do the right thing and return to Clearfield to take care of her family's loose ends. Despite the emotional damage inflicted by her abusive father, she will easily come to love again. With a last name like "Steadman," of course, Grady will become the steady man in Hannah's life as she confronts her demons. Her niece will eventually come to bond with her Aunt Hannah. And "what happened to Hannah" will be revealed over the course of the novel. Yet "what happened to Hannah" is so heavily hinted at that when it is revealed it comes as little surprise. McComas has written a pleasing fairy tale that will satisfy many readers. But those looking for a more nuanced handling of the repercussions of childhood trauma should look elsewhere.