Hey, readers and writers!
It’s my honor to be a part of a blog tour for Safe House by Shannon Symonds. Shall we begin? I’ll share my rating, a quick synopsis, my review, some questions for the author, then some information for a Goodreads giveaway!
Rating: 4 stars
Grace James can’t seem to catch a break. With teenagers of her own and a full-time job as a victim’s advocate, she just wants a good night’s sleep and to keep her work life and personal life separate.
However, when disaster strikes in two homes in her neighborhood, the whole community finds itself somehow involved in the stories of two women escaping physical and emotional abuse in their own homes.
Accompany Grace and her work partner Joe Hart, as they uncover the stories that Emily and Kelly both share before a nasty storm comes to test the mettle of their small town.
What I Enjoyed:
This novel had some crazy suspense. It’s a quick read in general, but with Emily’s and Kelly’s plight, I kept reading to make sure both of these women and their children made it out of their situations in one piece! The reader gets the omniscient view, so they know what’s happening across town while another character is completely clueless—and you’re just waiting for these two women to speak out or for someone to step in and establish order.
The main plus of this novel is that it’s about a victim’s advocate—written by a seasoned victim’s advocate. So the authority on this issue is pretty sound. Every detail surrounding the language the women use to describe their own stories, to how it affects their kids feels very raw and realistic. The law side of it felt pretty real, too. Thus, after you read this novel, you can have a better idea of how to identify marital abuse and know how to be a better ally to friends going through something similar. The language of the novel suggested that one of its primary goals was to give the reader a story but also the tools to learn from these experiences to potentially save themselves or someone else.
What I Didn’t Enjoy
Now this point might be confusing, so I hope I explain myself well. The reader doesn’t have any idea that religion plays such a huge part of the novel until a chapter or so in the novel. This is not labelled as Christian fiction at all. Despite that, the majority of the cast is either practicing Mormons, once-practicing Mormons, or converting to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Most of you that know me personally already know that, yes, I am a practicing Mormon. My main concern is that people who go into this without much knowledge or interest in the Church will see this as a sneaky way to over-indulge on our beliefs or church culture. They might feel tricked, in a sense. Thus, I want to warn you that religion and faith play a monumental role in this novel and you should know that before picking up any novel.
My other concern was the pacing and organization of the novel. While the scenes were well written and the suspense was killing me, the novel would leave you at a crucial cliffhanger where lives are at stake and then suddenly the focus shifts to two characters fishing and talking about life. It was jarring and left me viciously skimming so I could get back to the action for closure.
I know that it builds the tension and it makes the book harder to put down, but in certain parts it felt like it was done to toy with the reader.
My Final Thoughts
Safe House is a wild ride. And it’s mainly because there are so many characters in this novel and you get to follow all of them and how their stories interconnect. There’s a least one character for everyone to enjoy or identify with.
I didn’t take the time to mention Amber, Emily’s daughter. As the teen victim in this novel, I especially rooted for her and felt that her story was especially well written. I think this novel did especially well with depicting each victim in their own way to show the consequences of a toxic family relationship. She’s a strong character, and I appreciate Symond’s work in telling her story.
Overall, if you’re looking for inspirational stories that doesn’t cut out the harsh realities of life and yet brings in a little light of optimism and faith, Safe House is your next read. No, you probably won’t be converted to my faith, but you’ll definitely learn a lot about the culture and community aspects of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Questions for Shannon Symonds
1. What led you to write fiction? Or, how were you inspired to write this novel?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write. I do remember making goals as a 12-year old in church and writing down, “publish a book” and “own a house a block off the beach.” Check and check!
I never expected as a young girl that I would end up working as an advocate; responding all hours of the day and night along side law enforcement to serve survivors of intimate partner and sexual assault while raising 6 kids. I loved it all!
I worked for years as an advocate, caring for survivors of sexual and physical abuse. At one point, I found myself at a crossroads in my life. I chose to stop working as an advocate and take another job. However, I still wanted to find a way to continue to serve or to give back. I spent a lot of time on my knees wrestling with what I should do.
I remember the day I felt inspired to write Safe House. It was the answer to everything I was wrestling with. By writing Safe House I could reach two goals equally. I could hopefully draw the reader into a great story by touching their heart and also raise awareness to the plight of survivors.
Ironically, as soon as I had a publisher, the agency called and I went back to advocacy part time. If I hadn’t experienced the break from advocacy, I don’t think I would have felt driven to write. It forced me to look for another outlet to sharing my sincere desire to someday help end abuse.
2. Your characters rely on their faith during the events of this novel. How did you decide to include religion as a huge facet of the narrative?
I decided to write about what I know. I have read many books which include faith as a part of the character’s belief system, but not always the main story. In Safe House, religion isn’t the focus, but is integrated into the story like it is in everyday life. I also prefer clean literature.
Safe House is the story of an advocate, who somehow manages to maintain a belief in God and love, even when she witnesses the ugliest, most brutal acts man can do to each other within the confines of their home to their loved ones. When others might falter and wonder what kind of God allows the abuse, Grace sees God’s hand in all the good things that happen around her.
Grace also still wants a love of her own. Grace meets her love interest where she works, but a church is another common place for love to grow. Grace could have been a member of any religion. But faith gives her resilience and her resilience is part of the story, as is how each survivor finds something to help them cope.
3. You seemed to create Grace based on your own life experiences. How are you two similar or different from each other?
Well! I thought Grace and I were similar because we both work the same job, live in a similar place, and have our mother in an apartment attached to the house at least part of the year, but this weekend I was reminded of another similarity. We are both clumsy!
4. You had a huge cast of characters! Which character was your favorite to write and why?
Honestly, I love them all for different reasons. When I write it’s like seeing a movie and then finding it all typed out on paper. I see them, feel them and relish their quirks and strengths.
I like Hart because he expresses everything my brothers and other men have said to me over the years about their dates and desires.
I love Grace’s daughter, Mary, because she is a free spirit who does all the things I wish I could.
I love Mabel, Grace’s mother, because of her dry sense of humour and unconditional love, service and loyalty to her family.
I adore Amber, because of all the characters, there is something about her that resonates with me. She has the strength to go against the adults that surround her and listen to her own sense of right and wrong.
5. Your novel stressed the importance of believing a domestic violence victim. What is the next most important piece of advice you’d give to someone who thinks their friend or family member is suffering from domestic violence?
Don’t give up on them. It is easy to judge from the outside and wonder why they do the things they do, including stay or leave.
Abusers use isolation to maintain control over survivors and to cut them off from their support systems and opportunities to leave. The isolation can happen quickly, including demanding their victim leave social media or stop hanging out with people who are bad influences, like their family or friends. It can also happen slowly. It is not uncommon for an abuser to move a survivor several states or even a continent away from their family to keep the survivor from leaving them.
I have heard countless victims tell me they can’t go back home or there is no one to call and ask for help. They are ashamed, even though they never chose to be abused. They have been blamed for staying, blamed for choosing their partner and just about anything you can think of. We call it victim blaming or holding the victim accountable for the abuser’s behavior.
It is hard for any adult to ask for help. Don’t cut the lifeline between a survivor and her family. If you can’t safely help, at least refer them to a professional and do all you can to let them know you care and they aren’t totally alone in the world.
6. In a similar vein, are there any organizations that readers can volunteer in or donate money to in order to aid these victims?
There are! I am donating a small portion of the profits I make from Safe House to Operation Underground Railroad, an organization working to end and serve survivors of sex trafficking, including providing aftercare. There are also other organizations like the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence which can help you find local organizations to volunteer for or just support.
You can donate to Operation Underground Railroad through my campaign here.
7. Do you have more stories to tell? If so, when will we see your next novel?
I have been creating stories since I was a child. I seem to run on only a few hours sleep. I spent my summers sleeping in a bunk room with 13 cousins in the family beach house. I can remember keeping stories running night after night as I tried to stay still and not bother my cousins.
The next book will include most of the same characters, with a twist. I will begin fleshing it out in the fall.
Enter to Win a Copy of Safe House
If you’d like to grab a copy of this book, be sure to enter the giveaway! You can click here or the image below to head right to Goodreads and enter. Remember that you have until September 7th to enter!
If you’d like to learn more about Shannon Symonds and her work, you can catch up with her via social media:
To see all of my other book reviews, check out our the Book Reviews tab.