Where Hope Is Found – Book Review

Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“The very thing that had caused the worst moment of her life surrounded the place she now called home. Yet, here amidst the turbulent waters, she had found hope.”

This book was absolutely incredible. If you’re looking for a feel-good, uplifting book, this is probably not something you should reach for, but if you’re a lover of books about hope, love, real-life drama and eye-opening, heartbreaking tragedy, then you will definitely not be disappointed. I am so thrilled to be opening the blog tour today for Where Hope Is Found. If you like the sound of the book, please support the author by buying yourself a copy or by sharing this review!

About the book

One tiny moment in time can shatter your whole world.

A family beach vacation turns to tragedy and Marissa must find a way for her and her traumatized eight-year-old daughter, Maisy, to move forward and heal. But memories of what she lost surround her, threatening to take her to a dark place; a place she can never go again.

When her brother extends an invitation for her and Maisy to move in with him on Princess Island, Marissa thinks it might just be the fresh start she needs. But can she really find hope and healing on an island surrounded by the same ocean that broke her heart?

The beginning

I love a prologue done right, and the one in this book was perfect. It was short and to the point, with plenty to keep us guessing! An emotional tone greets us as we begin, but it didn’t make me shy away from what we were about to discover. I was intrigued right from the start, desperate to learn more about our main character, Marissa, her younger daughter, Maisy, and everything they’d lost one month earlier. The start of the book hit me hard, my eyes teared up as we learn of Marissa’s loss; a husband and a daughter so dearly loved. I was already overcome with emotion – how can an author pull you into a book and break your heart so damn quickly?! The author’s talent left me speechless, and I already knew this book would be an incredible journey. The stress of it all and the mountains of thoughts already in my mind created such a unique experience, and I was desperate to read more and more of the story. I just can’t praise the start of the book enough!

The author has a really great way of forcing you to read the next chapter, and there was some sort of mini cliff hanger after every one of them so far. I loved learning more about Marissa’s brother, Owen, and her nephew, Charlie, and I instantly became just as attached to these characters. The development of everyone we’d met so far was already perfect, and I was curious to see how much of an impact family could have on Marissa and Maisy’s lives going forward. We hear some saddening news about Marissa and the fact she wanted to end her life after everything that had happened broke me in two. I also had a very special place in my heart for little Maisy. The feeling and heartbreak of losing two of her most important family members, and then almost losing her mother is something no child should ever have to experience. The book is so raw and real, and it fills you with emotion at every turn. I couldn’t even predict the route the author would take as we get deeper into the book. So engrossing!

“But even as she saw them there, she felt oddly distanced from it all. It was as if she were watching this terrible thing happen to someone else. It wasn’t true. They couldn’t be gone.

The dialogue in the story was top notch. Everything from family arguments to simple conversations between two people with such strong emotions felt really satisfying to read, like real people were having a conversation before my very eyes. I always think dialogue can make or break a story, but I had nothing to worry about here! I really felt the tension in one particular scene where the whole family sit down to eat dinner, but leave two empty spaces to show that they’re ‘thinking of’ Kevin and Kyla. This backfires, causing a heated argument and some very upset people. It must be very difficult to know what the right thing to do is in a situation like this, and the author has very cleverly made us feel so much in a few short pages. I also loved how the perspective changes in the book from Marissa to Owen. Hearing how the tragedy affected these people in different ways and hearing their own thoughts was a great direction to take.

Owen suggests that Marissa and Maisy should sell their house filled with painful memories to live with himself and Charlie on Princess Island. But was it really a good idea to move to an island surrounded by the same ocean that took her husband and daughter from her? She agrees, but not without her reservations. She hates the idea of someone living in their family home, but also welcomes the idea of a fresh start, somewhere she can go to heal and adjust. The descriptions of Marissa’s memories as she packs up her belongings were so compelling, and I felt completely lost with her. The road would be long and the constant memories painful, but I had a good feeling about Marissa and Maisy being with Owen. They all care about one another so much and it shows! I loved the beginning of the book and I was looking forward to seeing more of Marissa’s healing journey with her daughter. I wanted so much happiness for them!

The middle

I loved the small town feel of Princess Island; how everyone seemed to know everyone else! We’re introduced to an array of minor characters that make up this place and it really did seem so charming. As overwhelming as all this feels for Marissa, I truly believed she was in the best place. It was great getting to know local teacher and friend of Owen’s, Howard Paxton; he was such a friendly and down-to-earth person, someone that I thought Marissa could learn from in her time on the island. He also comes with a fun, mysterious aura, something I was keen to learn more about. Marissa and Maisy’s relationship had taken a knock since the death of Kevin and Kyla, and Marissa begins to work on building the trust and the bond they once had. As expected, this wasn’t easy – Maisy’s behaviour is far from perfect, and she takes out her feelings on those close to her. It was so sad seeing how her father and sister’s deaths have affected her, but it was also completely normal in those circumstances. I just wanted to scoop her up and take away all her pain!

Marissa begins to attend regular support group meetings at the local community center, and while she wasn’t ready to talk about her experiences and loss just yet, she manages to listen to what other members of the group have to share. It was so upsetting hearing about everyone else’s loss, but their stories were brought to life by the author’s brilliant words. I felt like I was right there in the room and I longed to give my own support to these people! Meanwhile, Owen and Charlie notice a strange man hanging around, someone that felt like bad news, someone that could bring up the past. Could this man be in contact with Charlie’s mother? Was he dangerous? I absolutely loved how there was a whole different path in this story as well as what we experience with Marissa’s loss. The balance between the two was brilliant and really changed things up well. Marissa even travels out of her comfort zone and agrees to have dinner with lovely Howard. Even though it weirds her out a little at first, I felt like she could benefit from having a friend like him.

“Most people considered the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach peaceful or relaxing. For Marissa it was the sound of grief; the sound of loss. It acted as a magnifying glass to the pain in her soul.”

Owen reluctantly decides to speak to Charlie about getting a DNA test after Marissa spots the strange man hanging around the Pharmacy where she works. Thoughts that he could be Charlie’s biological father begin to worry them, and they certainly didn’t want to start any trouble. I loved how we read Owen’s thoughts, that it didn’t matter to him if Charlie was his biological son or not; he wanted him and loved him either way. The world needs more Owens in it! I really hoped things didn’t take a turn for the worse. I’d grown so attached to this family, and they’d already had more pain than anyone should have to go through. Just when we think Marissa and Maisy are making progress in their own relationship, things blow up again as Marissa finds a photograph of her husband and daughter that Maisy is keeping secret. It was great how much this photograph was helping her, but also sad because Marissa had banned photos of them to prevent even more hurt. I knew things would get easier over time though, for everyone who’d been affected by their deaths.

We learn more information about why Marissa was so against having photos of Kevin and Kyla in the house, and after I was confused by how much she hated the idea, even if it helped her grieving daughter, it made a lot of sense after her explanation. She’d need to overcome her fear though if she was to help herself and Maisy heal. It’s clear the author has put her all into perfecting Marissa’s story, and it was so easy to get to know her and her thought processes throughout the book. I became more attached to her as each chapter went by! Her relationship with Howard was getting better and more comforting, and as he asks her about her late husband, it becomes easier than she thinks to talk about him. I thought the pacing of the book was really great, and the author seems to have done everything right in a book of such a sensitive nature. My hopes for the ending of the book were that Marissa and Maisy would rekindle their mother-daughter relationship, they get well on their way to finding peace, and maybe, just maybe, Marissa can open her heart to the possibility of a new love.

The end

We get to know a brand new character, Justin, and even though this was a little unusual so close to the end of a book, I found this introduction to be a brilliant addition to the story. Marissa can relate to what this character has lost and everything he’s feeling, but in doing so and hearing his story at the support group, it causes her to break down, her emotional response to what she was hearing causing my own eyes to tear up. This whole scene had been written to perfection, just like the rest of the book. It was so powerful and had such a huge impact on me. We can feel Marissa’s relief that she’s finally opened up about how she feels, and I was confident that after this huge first step, she’d be able to make more progress and heal further. Home life also improves for her, and seeing her husband and daughter’s faces in photographs on the walls no longer had her searching for a bottle of pills.

I was becoming even more concerned about the scruffy man that was hanging around, and after Owen receives some disappointing news, it was even more important to find out the strange man’s identity and why he was hanging around. Things felt a little tense for Owen, but he didn’t want this to show to Charlie or Maisy. Sometimes, his own emotions get the better of him, especially when he calls his mother and updates her with the news, and it was surprising just how the tables had turned. It was Marissa’s turn to be there for Owen now, just as he’d been there for her after Kevin and Kyla’s deaths. Even though they were close siblings to begin with, I thought their most recent experiences had brought them even closer. They had become each other’s crutch, something that was so import and so precious to both of them. Howard continues to be a huge part of Marissa’s healing. He had to be one of my absolute favourites in the story!

“Somehow verbalizing that she missed her husband and daughter lifted a weight from her chest, as though she had released a pressure valve.”

I’d been waiting for Owen to confront the strange man for a while, and I finally got that scene I’d been waiting for! My nerves matched Owen’s as he plucks up the courage to speak, and the conversation between these two characters was one of my favourites in the entire book. We get answers about so many things that had been playing on Owen’s (and my) mind, and we read a letter from Charlie’s mum to Owen that was surprising, but so satisfying to read. The author really nailed this scene, and I was so tempted to read it for a second time! I started this review by saying that this isn’t an uplifting book as a whole, but there certainly are some uplifting parts throughout all the heartache and pain. And this is what made the story so unique and genuinely brilliant. After everything we’d learned, I couldn’t wait to read the ending few chapters and see for myself whether these characters I’d grown to love so much could find the happiness they truly deserved.

The ending of the book took a much different turn to what I expected – I felt like things were starting to take a much sweeter turn with new, positive relationships between a number of characters, something I welcomed after the tone of the rest of the book, but the author is full of surprises! We see Marissa have a slight dip as things get a bit too much for her again. I was nervous about her intentions as she searched for that pill bottle once more, and I hoped she wouldn’t go down that path again. I don’t want to spoil this part of the book as it’s quite intense, but just know that the author has done such a stellar job of keeping Marissa’s thoughts and feelings in mind when writing this scene, just as much as she has with Maisy’s. It was absolutely phenomenal, even if it was a little scary to experience. The ending of the book made me stop and think, not only about my priorities, but also about how lucky I am to have the people I love in my life. It was also the perfect ending to make you think of the future for these characters. Certainly a book that will stick with me!

Overall thoughts

Rebecca L. Marsh has quickly become one of those authors that I will automatically reach for in future, and this story has been one of the most heart-wrenching books I’ve ever read. The plot will break your heart, but also heal it, and you’ll end the story thinking about your own life in a whole new way. The writing is beautiful and powerful, the characters lovable and real. I still find myself thinking of Marissa’s story and wonder how her story continues after everything she faces in this book! A fantastic read, one I’d recommend far and wide.

Huge thanks to the author, Rebecca L. Marsh, for my copy of this book. You can purchase your own copy of Where Hope Is Found over on Amazon, available on Kindle and in paperback. Make sure you’re following the author over on Twitter for more updates!

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