Hadley and Grace
by Suzanne Redfearn
Hadley and Grace, by Suzanne Redfearn, is a well-written story that asks readers to suspend their disbelief over some unrealistic situations but rewards them throughout with a truly enjoyable and unique read. The synopsis of this book describes it as a story about the adventures of two women - one of whom was escaping an abusive marriage, the other escaping poverty, and both with children. Themes of domestic abuse, poverty, and the struggles of living in (then subsequently escaping) those situations are frequently used as plotlines or tension-builders in countless stories. I was unsure of Redfearn's ability to present a truly fresh take and different perspective without the story becoming a trope. I had no reason to doubt.
Hadley and Grace each believe they have planned the perfect escape from their lives – one woman fleeing a life of abuse, the other fleeing from poverty. The trouble is, neither woman knows the other is hatching a plan identical to her own. In fact, the women don't know each other at all until fate, desperation, and an almost comical set of events brings them together. For the rest of the story, Hadley, Grace, and their children are inseparable, first due to necessity and later due to friendship and loyalty. Together, they cross through several states, escape a multitude of sticky situations, and share poignant moments that test the bonds of a new allegiance.
While the story doesn't rely heavily on worldbuilding in the traditional sense, it does provide the reader with a solid feeling of having become familiar with the characters' internal worlds. One of Redfearn’s strongest talents as a writer seems to be her ability to fully develop her characters in a way that engages readers and enables them to believe they have actually met and developed friendships with each of the two protagonists. Hadley and Grace isn’t a story that needs a heavy dose of imagery, but Redfearn presents several clear and striking descriptions of the appearance, smells, and sounds of landscapes, backrooms, and hotels. Her ability to carefully highlight and draw attention to things that are typically taken for granted or overlooked in commonplace settings adds depth and realism to the story.
I will admit, there are more than a few unrealistic plot-turns, and the ending is a little bit too “nice and neat” for my usual tastes. However, after traveling with the women through many misadventures and holding my breath as they escaped yet another twist, the ending was quite satisfying. It gave me exactly the kind of "too-perfect" closure I wanted for all the characters.
Hadley and Grace is a story that will appeal to readers who enjoy strong female characters, stories of endurance, motherhood, and friendship, and those who just want to be able to immerse themselves in an engaging story for a weekend. I can't wait to read more work by Suzanne Redfearn!