(The Haunting of Hattie Hastings is ONE story told in installments. I do not recommend reading the books out of order. You could, but what’s the fun in that? And you’d miss out on the snarky good story build! 😉 )
The Haunting of Hattie Hastings, Part I
Make no mistake, Harriet ‘Hattie’ Hastings adores her husband, Gary and their son, Johnny. But the too-long-unemployed spouse and recent uni-dropout offspring are not making life easy for the hard-working barista who searches in vain for her silver lining.
Fate intervenes with a dark hand leaving Hattie a grieving widow. Before she’s had time to mourn and adjust to Gary’s demise… he’s back!
Of course, Hattie believes her mind’s gone around the bend, but she does come to accept the fact Gary is back in all his ethereal glory, and he’s just as confused about it as she is.
Hattie struggles with how to share the news with Johnny, and with the three people closest to her, brother Jack, mom Rachel, and bestie Cat, without getting locked away in a padded room.
The theme of loss runs through The Haunting of Hattie Hastings and touches all the characters, but it is the way they deal with the loss, separately and together, which make this such a lively, winning read. Along with Hattie losing Gary, Rachel lost Hattie and Jack’s dad when they were so young, they don’t remember him. Cat’s marriage failed, but after details come to light, I’m thinking it was a good thing as in ‘less is more!” HA!
The story is told from multiple points of view in such a fluid, non-confusing way, I found myself looking forward to each chapter, anxious to find out how each character progressed past their situations.
But, this is Hattie’s story and she is so well-written! Hattie doesn’t have superpowers, wealth or vast material possessions, stunning beauty, or a yearning to visit another planet. She’s every-woman, rolling with the punches of life, trying to figure it all out—like why her dead husband is haunting her. Hattie is arguably one of the most normal characters I’ve come across. Her humor, wit, and sarcasm are all on point! She’s suffered a heartbreaking loss and it hurts. But, she is not so consumed in self-pity she ignores those she loves. She hopes her son finds direction in life. She wants to know what her mother is keeping from her. Hattie hopes to always be close with her brother, and of course, she prays Cat finds a man worthy of her who will love and cherish her, not rip away her dignity and self-esteem.
The Haunting of Hattie Hastings is a very British read. There’s enough tea served to fill Boston Harbor. But mentions of scones, Downton Abbey, and the Queen are mixed right in with mentions of the Ghostbusters and Homer Simpson and pop culture favorites, The Lord of the Rings, It’s a Wonderful Life, and the Cat in the Hat!
This short-read moves at a steady pace, covering a lot of (emotional) ground and ends at a great point in the story. Some may call it a cliffhanger. I disagree… because I hate those, but if you’re wise—like me—you’ll have book 2 cued up and continue right on with this fun read…also, like me!
(How do you review a book 2 without spoiling book 1? Let’s see if I can pull it off! 😉 )
The Haunting of Hattie Hastings, Part II
Cat received a double shock at the end of book 1.
One was the reappearance of her loathsome ex-husband after nearly ten years.
The other… well, she’s still not sure what to make of it, but she’s filled with shame and regret and knows she owes her best friend an apology.
Another short read, book 2 of The Haunting of Hattie Hastings is filled with epiphanies and revelations, and some of them are heartbreaking.
Gary’s unfinished business is revealed with the arrival of a child to the otherworldly realm. The death of a child is never easy and it even guts Gary, but he understands what he must do in order for he and the child, Marty, to move on… and his mission cannot be completed without Hattie.
Hattie is not on-board with Gary’s plan in the beginning and refuses. She’s also preoccupied with being happy for Johnny’s hesitant steps into responsible adulthood. She reconnects with Gary’s best friend, Barry, trying to understand the full breadth of his grief, as well as who he truly is. Hattie, at last, finds out Rachel’s secret and it leaves her numb. But she is encouraged not only by her mother’s unending strength but also by the man (Ralph) who refuses to leave her side.
This is where Ralph became my favorite character in the story… because not all book-boyfriends are twenty-five looking for a virgin – go, Ralph!
Cheered on by coworker, Beth, Johnny, and Rachel, Hattie meets an admirer for drinks… with disastrous results, thanks in part to Gary. In his defense, Gary acted in Hattie’s best interest because some men are simply selfish, self-centered jerks. Go, Gary!
Hattie is also worried about Cat’s continued involvement with Stewart, the aforementioned loathsome ex-husband.
This part bugged me. After all he put her through, and all the years and effort Cat put into rebuilding her life and herself, it made no sense to me that she’d act like a typical empty-headed romance novel female and allow herself to be so easily lead and manipulated. It blows up in her face when someone who loves her is hurt by her actions, and I’m wishing hot festering boils on her body not because it happened, but because she knew better. Fix it!
Motivated by Gary’s sincerity… and a child’s orange toy that bears a striking resemblance to a certain sitting president, Hattie embarks on a journey to bring closure in the hear and now, and the hereafter.
So concerned with all going on around her, what’s going to happen to Hattie?
The Haunting of Hattie Hastings, Part II is a great installment on a very human story. The author has done a masterful job on the story-build, keeping the plot front and center, while fleshing out characters and their side stories. There’s plenty of conflict, love, and laughter to keep readers swiping pages! Looking forward to Part III and you will too!
The story continues … Hattie is used to her deceased husband Gary dropping in and out of her life. His timing might not always be great, but at least he’s still around. Although – when Hattie tentatively tries a spot of dating – his interference isn’t entirely welcome.
Best friend Cat is lapping up her new relationship with teacher Jamie, but ex-husband Stewart isn’t prepared to fade into the background.
Hattie’s mother Rachel faces a daunting battle, one she doesn’t want to burden family and friends with. But there’s someone waiting in the wings who might be more than a shoulder to cry on.
Gary still doesn’t know what his mission on earth is, and spirit guide Clarence isn’t offering any clues? Will an encounter with another provide him with answers, or put Hattie in an impossible situation?
Prepare for more laughs and tears in the second instalment of a trilogy which takes a darkly comic look at life … and the afterlife.
Warning: Cliffhanger ending