No Good Asking by Fran Kimmel

Jul 31, 2020

Hannah Finch is eleven years old. Almost twelve. She is a troubled girl, abused and alone. Her mother is dead. One week before Christmas, she leaves the place she calls home and steps out into a winter storm.

Eric Nyland, a retired RCMP officer, on his way to pick up a Christmas tree for his family, stops to help Hannah, realizing what the girl doesn’t is that she could perish in such weather.

In the car, Eric tries to strike up a conversation with Hannah. She tells him about her cat, Mandy, that she left behind when she ran away. The girl feels she must return to make sure the cat is alright. At the house, Eric reluctantly leaves her with Nigel and returns home. Hannah falls into her old routine, all the while fearing Nigel’s drunken binges, his tongue lashings, his fists. Nigel is a shadowy figure, looming as a stereotypical bully with issues of his own. The whys of his behaviour are not realized here; perhaps that is a story for another book. This is Hannah’s story.

Fran Kimmel’s novel is a well-paced story that dwells on uncomfortable issues including child abuse, autism and grief. These can be heavy subjects to approach but the author focusses on healing.

Because Eric had promised his wife, Ellie, that he would cut a tree for Christmas Day, he takes a day to perform this task taking Daniel with him. First, they stop at Nigel’s to see how Hannah is getting along. Inside he discovers a very drunk Nigel but no sign of Hannah. He begins a search of the house finally finding the girl in the basement with her cat Mandy. The cat is dead. Eric then makes a decision that will change everything.

With a deft hand, Kimmel gives her characters room to grow; she shows us that given love, time and trust, we can work our way from sadness and longing to positivity and light.

 No Good Asking is an honest book about the frailties of humankind; it captures our interest and shows us what we can achieve with compassion.

No Good Asking
by Fran Kimmel
ECW Press, 2018, 281 pp., $19.00 (softcover)

Mary Barnes is a writer living in Wasaga Beach, Ontario.

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