Monday, 4 August 2014

Guest Book Review: Heather Gudenkauf - Little Mercies

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Sometimes, one small mistake can have life-altering consequences...

As a veteran social worker, Ellen Moore has seen it all - the vilest acts one person can commit against another. The only thing that gets her through the workday is knowing her job helps children. That, and her family: her husband, Adam, and three beautiful kids, twins Leah and Lucas, and eleven-month-old Avery. But with a blink of an eye - with one small mistake - Ellen is suddenly at the mercy of the system she works for. Avery is ripped from her clutches, and her whole world begins crashing down around her.

Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but good-for-nothing father since her mother left them. When her father decides to pack their belongings and move to a new state, Jenny thinks she might be on the road to a better life. But soon she finds herself on her own, forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. Evading police and the social system, Jenny finds refuge with a kind-hearted waitress. The last thing she needs is a social worker, but when Ellen and Jenny's lives collide unexpectedly, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

Amazon links: Kindle or Paperback

Little Mercies is the fourth novel from Heather Gudenkauf and it is just as good as her others if not better. The last few books I had read were all light and easy enough reading so it was a change to read something more gritty and hard-hitting that dealt with a traumatic event that could so easily happen to anyone. It is essentially the story of how one small error can have such devastating consequences for a tight knit family and change their lives dramatically .

The story has two main characters Ellen - an overworked, stressed social worker and mum to three children, Leah (9) , Lucas (6) and Avery (11 months) - and Jenny – a ten year old girl who has been through untold horrors and has had to grow up way before her time. Each chapter is told from either Ellen or Jenny’s point of view so we get to experience how each character is feeling at any given time in the story. 

One morning Ellen has overslept and is rushing for a morning meeting while trying to get her children ready for the day. She receives a phone call from one of the young children on her case list, the child is upset and terrified and needs Ellen's help as something terrible is happening at her home. Ellen rushes off to help little realising what her husband Adam had been trying to tell her. This will prove to have a devastating consequence for Ellen and her family.

One small mistake can have such a life altering consequence; this could so easily happen to anyone . Mothers are under such pressures these days and is extremely hard to keep on top of everything and strike the right balance between work and home life. But the tables are turned on Ellen when she becomes the focus of an investigation. How can she prove she was innocent and it was just a simple error of miscommunication?

Jenny is a child who has witnessed much in her short life and has to take on the adult role as her mother abandoned her and her father is also having difficulties in his life. Jenny ends up in the same city as Ellen and meets Ellen’s mother Maudene (who is a widow and works in a local diner). Maudene was a wonderful character she just seemed so sensitive, motherly and caring . Maudene knows the signs of abuse and takes Jenny under wing, trying to help her heal from the traumas she has suffered in the past. Poor Jenny was terrified and vulnerable yet was willing to place her trust in a strange adult. Jenny is determined to find her grandmother and here is where the link between Jenny and Ellen is established. I won’t reveal anymore just to say even at such a stressful, upsetting time for Ellen her kind, caring nature shone through in her willingness to help Jenny find the happy ending she deserved. 

Heather Gudenkauf is not afraid to deal with serious life changing issues. This is an emotional, tough, heartbreaking story and even though I do not have children I still felt all the trauma and heartache Ellen was going through at the enforced separation from her child and her guilt for making such a simple mistake that she will have to live with for a long time to come. Although I did feel the character of Adam (Ellen’s husband) could have featured a bit more. I felt we really didn’t get to know him as he spent most of the book beside Avery’s bedside. The ending was wrapped up  a bit too quickly , I would have preferred a few more twists and turns. Maybe some courtroom drama รก la Jodi Picoult ! I want to know what happened to the characters after the story finished especially Jenny maybe even just a short story would suffice.  Overall another emotionally charged and engaging read from Heather Gudenkauf which I would highly recommend.

I'd like to thank Emma for reviewing this eBook which we received from the publisher via NetGalley.  


  1. A brilliant review of this book, I have to admit I thought the ending was a little too straightforward but overall this book is one that made me think.

  2. Really want to read this. I'm a foster mum so must find some things close to the bone. Added to my Wishlist :)