Reviewer: Sharon Brunner
In the novel Delta County, J.L. Hyde brings to life the struggle of a young woman, named Heather, who suffered a lot of losses and felt driven to get to the bottom of the questionable deaths of her parents and best friend. The story primarily takes place in Escanaba, a community located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Hyde was a native of Delta County where Escanaba is located. She has also published another book about Delta County, “Midnight at Delta County.” The plot of the story involved a woman who killed Heather’s parents and got away with it. Kelly, the friend who died unexpectedly, told Heather about possible extenuating circumstances associated with their death. A coroner did not like having to report Kelly’s death as an accident. Getting to the bottom of things took years and on the deathbed of one of the people, who knew what happened, the truth was finally revealed. Her friends and Aunt helped Heather deal with the dilemma of the mysteries she faced. Heather realized when it was too late that she needed to deal with the losses and horrible treatment she experienced.
Ryan, Heather’s husband, on occasion appeared to be an ideal husband for Heather. She suspected there was more than meets the eye between Ryan’s ex-girlfriend, Julie, Ryan and Ryan’s mother, Mitzi. Her mother-in-law doted on her son, spent lots of time with Julie and treated Heather like she was a servant and an unwanted addition to their family. To make matters worse Ryan wanted Heather to get to know Julie and perhaps they could be friends. In the end, Heather learned that Ryan fathered a child with another woman while they were married.
Throughout the book, the themes were loss, frustration and hurt, deceit, mistrust, and close friendships. Heather had close friends since high school and they were known as the Sharks. They were close and had a lot of fun together. Mitzi continuously hurt Heather’s feelings by saying things in public that put her down, playing favorites with Julie and doing other unspeakable things. Heather did not trust the relationship Ryan and Mitzi had with Julie. Concerning deceit, lies were told about what happened to her parents and best friend. Heather suffered serious losses. She lost her parents at the same time and her friend soon after they renewed their friendship.
Hyde brought up a relatable scenario when Heather went shopping with Mitzi, who happened to have a lot of money. She felt like she was Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” when Julia’s character visited the store on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles for the first time. Hyde did an excellent job of providing descriptive scenarios. I was reminded of “My Best Friend’s Wedding” with Julia Roberts and the games Julie played concerning Heather’s relationship with Ryan. How Mitzi treated Heather reminded me of the show “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Marie treated Deb harshly at times concerning her cooking and cleaning abilities. I hate to speak negatively of the dead but my ex-husband’s mother treated me in the same manner. We don’t just marry the man or woman, we marry the entire family. Harry Potter’s aunt and uncle treated Harry like he was unwanted because he was different.
I really liked the scenarios in which Heather took it upon herself to renovate their home. I like the relationship she had with her Aunt Meryl. Heather overlooks her aunt’s quips and enjoys her company. I like how Hyde reminded the readers how important it is to address trauma and not ignore the impact of it. My Master of Social Work degree and life experiences gave me a good understanding of the need to address the impact of trauma. It appeared Heather treated the problems she faced by self-medicating when she drank alcohol. Hyde took the reader through some of the everyday experiences concerning Heather’s life when she needed to be more focused on the unexplained deaths.
Hyde did an excellent job of giving the reader the opportunity to get into the mind of Heather. It was like I was on the scene experiencing what Heather did. I was reminded how well Stephen King has done the very same thing. Upon reading the book “The Dark Half,” I had to put the book down because of the terror one of the characters faced. It felt so real. I picked up the book the next day during the daylight hours. Heather went through disappointing situations with multiple miscarriages and had to pick up the pieces and pretend she was okay while serving as Mitzi’s servant. It brought back memories of times when I had to pretend everything was okay.
Detailed accounts of Escanaba were given throughout the book. I am familiar with Ludington Park in Escanaba which was mentioned. My husband and I visited the park on many occasions with our grandchildren when we went to Escanaba to visit them. They moved to Ohio about six years ago. Ludington Street is a main thoroughfare that is mentioned in the book. It was a blast from the past reading about Rapaportz Coffee shop at the mall. I have purchased coffee from that same place. I was sorry to hear, according to Hyde, that it was closed. The smell of the various types of coffee was heavenly when I visited the shop.
Hyde portrayed a heartwarming and eye-opening rendition of the trial and tribulations of the life of a woman who has suffered losses and delved into creating a life for her and her husband in the community of Escanaba. The small-town persona provided Heather with a stumbling block while she tried to solve the mysteries behind her parents’ and friend’s death. A coroner, a lawyer, a young man and her best friend’s mother may have been behind the mysterious deaths. Hyde pulled a fast one when the real culprit was revealed. She did an excellent job of creating likeable and unlikeable characters and believable family scenarios. Scenarios anyone could relate. I recommend Delta County for the unsolved mysteries and because of its real-life family situations, detailed descriptions concerning various scenarios, Hyde’s ability to give the reader a chance to get inside the main character’s mind, and the importance placed on self-care.
Book Title: Delta County
Author: J.L. Hyde