Friday, May 29, 2015

Review: Stillwater Rising by Steena Holmes

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: November 11th, 2014
Pages: 264
Audiobook Length: 6 hours 57 minutes


After losing her son in an elementary school shooting that devastates the tight-knit community of Stillwater Bay, Jennifer Crowne finds herself unable to settle back into her role of perfect stay-at-home mom and committee organizer. Meanwhile, her best friend, Mayor Charlotte Stone, struggles to keep the town together, and Charlotte’s husband, the school principal, may not be the hero everyone thinks him to be.

As they try to heal from this irrevocable trauma, Jenn and Charlotte find themselves at a crossroads—within the town and within their friendship. For Jenn, broken and grieving, there is no going back, and she demands that the school be closed so that she can bury the past. Yet Charlotte is equally desperate to hold the town together, fighting the school closure and helping the shooter’s mother regain her place in the community. Jenn and Charlotte’s relationship is put to the ultimate test as each weighs her own interests against the bonds of their friendship.

What Did I Think About the Story?



I have discovered a wonderful new way to enjoy the reading experience: a Kindle edition that allows you to flip seamlessly between the eBook version and the Audible audio version. Maybe others have known about this for a long time, but Stillwater Rising was my first experience with this format and I have to say I loved it! It allowed me to listen to the story on my long commutes and as soon as I was able to stop and actually read the story it would deliver me to the exact spot I left off on. The narrator, Amy McFadden, did a wonderful job of giving a different edge to the voices of many of the characters and this helped differentiate them in my mind. And, Stillwater Rising being a very emotional read, this also helped to endear me to these character and to really feel the loss, sadness and anger that so many of them felt.

 I should warn anyone who has had a treasured child in their life that this novel will fairly gut you at times. My son is soon to be ten (the same age as Jen's son in the story) and as I progressed through the story I could not help but put myself in Jen's place and found myself tearing up more than once because of it. Steena Holmes does a wonderful job of placing the reader into the head and heart of each of the main characters and making you empathize, even if you can't necessarily relate, to how each of them is trying to survive and move on after this tragedy.

The character I related to most, clearly, was Jen. I was rather shocked that only a month (yes, one month!) had passed since the terrible shooting that killed a number of students and teachers in this tight-knit community and that most people were expecting everyone to have begun to move on by this point. So many were trying to get the town back to normal before the busy summer season began and even had plans to have an annual summer celebration like usual, and all I could keep thinking was "really?! Already?!". Jen was one of the last to start the process out of mourning and I kept wanting to shout at the characters that were pushing her to begin moving on.

Beyond Jen, each of the other main characters presented different viewpoints on this tragedy and realistic and legitimate perspectives on how to handle the complex emotions remaining as they faced a future very different than anything they could have imagined. The most complex of these characters was Julia, the mother of the teenage shooter who also killed himself. The level of guilt, grief and emptiness she was feeling was palpable and, while I could understand why some of the people in the community blamed her somewhat for the tragedy (why didn't she see any signs that her son was this troubled? Why did she allow him to have access to a gun?) I couldn't help but feel for her as she struggled with her guilt over what her son had done and her deep need to mourn this child of hers that everyone was calling a monster. There are a lot of complicated feelings going on in this story and Steena Holmes does a great job of showcasing them all.

The story ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger and leaves a good amount of unanswered questions regarding the many relationships that have either begun to build back up or fall apart after the tragedy and what will happen next for the community. There's also a tease regarding the principal of the school that leaves you to believe we don't know everything about what happened the day of the shooting. I am very intrigued to see where the author takes the people of Stillwater Bay next.  

What Did I Think About the Cover?



It's okay. It definitely brings to mind the town by the water and the emptiness left behind after the tragedy. I'm not really sure what else I would want to be presented on the cover but it doesn't really catch my eye per se either.

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

About the Author



NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author Steena Holmes is the author of the heart wrenching Finding Emma series as well as the novel Stillwater Rising.

Steena Holmes grew up in a small town in Canada and holds a Bachelors degree in Theology.

In 2012 she received the Indie Excellence Award. Holmes was inspired to write Finding Emma after experiencing a brief moment of horror when she’d thought her youngest daughter was missing.

She currently lives in Calgary with her husband and three daughters and loves to wake up to the Rocky Mountains each morning.

You can find out more about Steena on her website and can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.


  1. Thank you for this review. I am with you, a month is definitely not enough time to move on. I am imagining that grief that involves shooting and especially young children would take so much grieving. I really think I would still be in the state of shock after only one month. I currently live in a state where the legislature is deciding whether or not to allow guns on campus. To me, that is a ridiculous idea. With so many unresolved questions at the end of the book, I would be inclined to wait until I could read one after another instead reading it and wondering for so long.

    1. Totally with you, Carol! I don't know how I would EVER get over something like that, let alone so quickly. I can't imagine that any state would allow guns on campus, that is insane! Thank you for stopping by :)!