Amy Hatvany’s It Happens All the Time

“I want to rewind the clock, take back the night when the world shattered. I want to erase everything that went wrong.”

There are two sides to every story, but which side of the story is actually true? Are neither of them wrong? In Amy Hatvany’s provocative new novel, It Happens All the Time, she tackles the issue of rape between two friends and the effects that it has on both of their lives.

Best friends since they were teenagers, Amber and Tyler have seen each other through some of life’s darkest periods. When Amber returns home for the summer after her college graduation, she and Tyler begin to spend a lot of time together. On the fourth of July, while at a friend’s house party, and after one too many swigs of tequila, Amber kisses Tyler. The next morning Amber accuses Tyler of rape. And life, as they both know it, will never be the same.

What I loved the most about this novel is that it is told in alternating points of view from both Amber and Tyler. It’s powerful and heart-wrenching at times more so I think, because of the way that it was written. Not only do we get to see her side of the rape and everything that happens after, we also see it from Tyler’s perspective. We witness the event through Amber’s eyes, how she changed her mind the last second and said no, and through Tyler’s eyes, how he was so drunk that Amber’s sudden no didn’t even register in his mind. Did Tyler not hear it? Did Amber not say it out loud?

As always, with a Hatvany novel, I spent a good portion in tears while reading this. Amy has a way of tugging at your heartstrings and this one is no exception. As much as you hate Tyler for what he did, you feel for him as well. We watch both Amber and Tyler’s lives spiral downward and feel helpless to stop it. Really, what can you do? What if you were in that situation? How would you react? Would you react? Would you have a lack of reaction, which is a reaction in itself? Even if Amber didn’t say it out loud, her body did; it stiffened and tried to fight back as best it could. What happened was not her fault. But, unfortunately, it’s not entirely Tyler’s either. In a way they both can be seen as victims.

It’s not black and white. There’s a lot of grey to this story, which is true in real life a lot as well, and a reason why it goes unreported. Books like this need to be written and read, for many reasons, but mainly so that victims realize that those feelings that they have – the ones Amber has – are real and justified and that they are not alone.

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It Happens All the Time, by Amy Hayvany.  March 2017. Atria Books

Amy Hatvany’s Somewhere Out There

There are two types of people in the world: the ones that allow themselves to be defined by past experiences, and those who use their hardships as a way to strengthen themselves and rise above. In Amy Hatvany’s latest novel, Somewhere Out There, we see both types, as two sisters who were torn apart when they were young are reunited as adults.

When Jennifer got pregnant as a teenager, against her mother’s wishes, she decided to move in with her boyfriend and keep the baby. Little did she know that he would kick her out. That she would become homeless. That she would have a second child. And that she would end up in prison. For shoplifting food at a grocery store. For her children.

Natalie Clark never knew her birth mother. She was too young to remember her. She didn’t even know that she was adopted until she had to do a family tree project for school. Now that her own daughter has to do the same, Natalie musters the strength to ask her parents the questions she was always too afraid of, finding out that she has a sister that she never knew existed. Natalie feels betrayed by her parents’ actions and immediately goes about trying to find her long lost sister.

The last time Brooke Walker saw her mother or little sister, she was four years old. She moved from one foster home to the next, eventually growing up in a state facility, while her baby sister was adopted. Brooke lives in a small studio and works as a waitress. She doesn’t have any friends, and seems to only date emotionally unavailable men. Brooke never lets anyone get close to her. She keeps herself at a distance from everyone that she comes in contact with, preferring to feel nothing than to get hurt. She blames her mother abandoning her and her sister for never trying to find her.

When Brooke and Natalie finally reunite, Brooke is cautious and keeps her distance. Even when she starts to let her guard down, she isn’t able to completely open up and trust her sister. Natalie wants answers to why their mother abandoned them, but Brooke is hesitant. After digging, Natalie finds out more than she could have imagined, leaving herself heartbroken for both the little girl that she had been and for the pain that her mother – Jennifer – had gone through.

Natalie and Brooke eventually meet Jennifer, but are their relationships ones that can be repaired? There were many moments in the novel that I found myself in tears…mostly for the chapters with Jennifer. Yes, her children went through a lot, having lost their mother and each other, but what Jennifer had to deal with was truly heartbreaking. How do you come back from a loss like that? Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes, even if you want to, even if it is presented to you, it’s not enough. Natalie was able to use her losses as strength, something that Brooke has a hard time doing. But what about Jennifer? Will she be able to find a way to let her daughters back into her life, or will it break her?

Amy Hatvany
Somewhere Out There.  Amy Hatvany.  WSP 2016

Amy Hatvany’s Safe With Me

In Amy Hatvany’s new novel, Safe With Me, published in March by Washington Square Press, she weaves a tale of abuse, loss and unconditional love through three distinct alternating narrations of two women and one teenager, who are connected long before they meet.

It had been nearly a year since Hannah Scott lost her daughter as she was biking out of their driveway and hit by a car. Since then, she threw herself into her work, opening up a second hair salon and moving into an apartment above it, trying to pick up the pieces when all the while she’s still devastated by it. It’s not until a new friend walks into her life (and her salon) with a connection to her daughter that she is finally able to face the situation and start healing.

Olivia Bell has lived her life in fear for a long time, fearful of her husband’s sometimes abusive tendencies, and fearful of her daughter Maddie’s struggling health, which, after an organ transplant a year earlier is finally improving enough that she can return to school. It is when Olivia picks Maddie up on her first day back in tears that she decides to make her daughter feel better…by taking her to the grand opening of a new hair salon in town. Little do they know that their trip to Hannah’s salon will change their lives forever.

At the heart of this novel lies the concept of the power of emotions and how strongly they can affect us, sometimes without us even knowing it. Hatvany makes us take a look at our own lives and relationships, past the ideals, past the rose-colored glasses, and allows us to see them for what they really are (were).

“We try on personalities like second skins, learning to present only the best versions of ourselves to the world, fearful of what might happen if we reveal just how imperfect and vulnerable we really are. But it’s these imperfections…these struggles, that truly connect us.”

Amy Hatvany’s Heart Like Mine

Have you ever stumbled onto a situation that wasn’t part of your plan, and had to make the choice of whether to venture off course risking everything, or stick with your original path and always wonder what could have been?  This is the case in Amy Hatvany’s Heart Like Mine, where the reader is introduced to Grace, Ava and Kelli in a trio of alternating narrations, and taken on a journey which will forever change all of their lives.  At times, heartbreaking, Heart Like Mine is the kind of book that touches your heart in ways that you wouldn’t think possible.  It makes you think about your own choices in life and whether they were the right ones for you.

Grace is a woman who works with a foundation that helps battered women make new lives for themselves; it was a career that she stumbled upon while doing volunteer work and she loves it.  But like many of us, Grace had a plan for her life, which didn’t include kids, which is why when she began dating Victor – a divorcé with two kids – she hesitated, but not for long.  For the most part, Victor’s kids lived with their mother, Kelli, spending every other weekend with him, something that Grace felt that she could deal with.  She and Victor move in together, get engaged, and for a brief moment everything is perfect.  Less than a week after their engagement, the unthinkable happens: Kelli dies.  Her death leaves Victor and the kids distraught as they try to cope with what happened, and Grace ultimately needs to choose.  Does she love Victor enough to stay with him and his kids and be able to help them in their time of need, or does she need to let go?

Ava is Victor and Kelli’s thirteen year old daughter who, ever since her dad had left a few years back, has been taking care of her unstable mom and helping with household chores that a girl of her age shouldn’t have to do.  She tolerates Grace, but at the same time wishes that her parents would get back together.  When she finds out that Kelli is dead, Ava’s world is crushed.  She has to permanently move out of the only home she’s ever known, and she resents Grace because she is alive whereas her mother is not.  But, the hardest thing of all is that everything that Kelli had told Ava about her past starts unraveling, and slowly Ava learns the truth: Kelli was not who she thought she was.  Ultimately, Ava needs to decide if she can let go of the mom she thought she had and accept Kelli for who she actually was.  She also needs to figure out if she can let go enough of Kelli to let Grace in, or be the catalyst to drive her away.

Kelli, is the mother to Ava and Max, and ex-wife to Victor.  Despite problems that she and Victor had, and despite the fact that they haven’t been together for the past few years, she still held onto hope that he would come back to her…until Victor told her of his engagement to Grace.  Kelli was devastated by the news, yes, but was it enough to put her over the edge?  Since Kelli dies not to long after, most of her character is narrated from her adolescence up until the time of her death.  As we travel with Kelli along her short journey, things from her past emerge and shed light on her as an adult and why she behaved the way that she did – the most shocking of which Kelli didn’t even see coming.  She always knew that she had been abandoned by the people who were supposed to love her the most, but she finds out that there is a possibility that they may have betrayed her as well.

If you were put into a similar situation, how would you react?  Would you try to do the right thing even if it was not in your plan?  Take Grace, she had just started getting used to the idea that she was going to be a part-time step mom, only to be thrown completely into parenting…and not only that, parenting kids – Ava specifically – who made it especially difficult for her to do so.  Ava is horrible to Grace, stealing from her, screaming at her, lying to Victor, and at least once or twice telling Grace that she hated her.  It’s not that Grace was replacing Kelli, because that is not what Grace wanted at all, but at the same time you can kind of understand where Ava is coming from as well.  Her plan was not to tragically lose her mom and be raised by someone else, and because she is only thirteen her behavior is partially excused.  Although she does not come across as the most sympathetic character at times, losing a parent isn’t easy, and that in turn makes you feel for her.  All Kelli ever wanted out of life was to be loved by someone.  She was estranged from her parents, divorced from her husband, and only had one real friend – and the one thing that she loved the most, the thing that she didn’t know existed although always longed for, could have kept her from going over the edge of despair and possibly have been her hold in the realm of happiness.

Heart Like Mine shows the different types of love that we can experience in our lives, the ones that have always been with us, the ones that we’ve always wanted, and the ones that we didn’t know existed but that ultimately were found to be essential us.  It shows us that life is more precious than we realize, and at any second someone that we deeply care about can be taken away from us, but it also hopefully helps people who find themselves in similar situations (Grace) know that they are not alone, and that things will get better over time.  You can feel the loss of someone deeply, but in order for anyone to keep on living, you have to move on to a point.  Perhaps if Kelli had been able to do that she would have lived a longer and happier life.  This was my first time reading Hatvany’s writing.  I think that she did a wonderful job and I would not hesitate to pick up another one.