Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard
Set in rural Manitowoc County mainly during 1994-1995, Mourning Hours tells the story of what happened after teenager Stacy Lemke disappeared in an early March snowstorm. Although in the end the mystery is solved, the story is more about how her disappearance affected the Hammarstrom family and the community. The tone of the book is tense as the strain on the family causes their lives together to come apart. Paula Treick DeBoard’s details of life in rural Wisconsin ring true, and her characters are realistic and believable.
The story starts in 2011 with Kirsten Hammarstrom, now a graduate student in California, returning to her family’s farm near Watankee in rural Manitowoc County. Then it flashes back to summer 1994 and is narrated by nine-year-old Kirsten. Kirsten’s father, John, tells her that everything she needs to know about life from birth to death can be learned on a farm, and one of her memories is about the accidental death of their neighbor Mr. Warczak which left his son Jerry to handle the farm. As is the custom in their close-knit community, John helps Jerry, and Jerry will later help John. Kirsten’s older brother, Johnny, will be a senior in high school and is a star wrestler with a bright future. Stacy Lemke is a pretty, spoiled 16-year-old who has set her sights on Johnny and befriends Kirsten in order to get to know Johnny. Soon Johnny and Stacy are a couple with an intense relationship. Kirsten’s parents, especially her mother, are concerned about the intensity of the relationship. The mother, Alicia, had to delay getting her nursing degree when she became pregnant with Johnny while still in high school, and she does not want anything to jeopardize Johnny’s future. Then on March 4, 1995 during a snowstorm, Stacy goes missing. Johnny says they were on a date when his truck slid off the road, and Stacy decided to walk the 1 mile home from the site of the accident. She never made it home. Since Johnny was the last to see her, he is a suspect in her disappearance and possible murder. Soon reporters are camped out at the Hammarstrom’s driveway. The Lemkes hold a press conference which makes the Hammarstrom family look bad. The community turns against the Hammarstroms. They are shunned and are victims of vandalism. Kirsten and her sister Emilie are harassed at school. Kirsten wants to remain loyal to Johnny and believe that he is innocent. Should the family support Johnny or try to separate themselves from him and live their own lives? And what is the truth behind Stacy’s disappearance? Read the book to find out what really happened to Stacy and what happened to the Hammarstrom family.