Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Blog Tour/Review/Interview: Safe House by Shannon Symonds

Safe House, by Shannon Symonds
2017, 292p, LDS Fiction
My Rating=4 Stars
Source: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, which did not affect my review in any way

As a victim’s advocate, Grace James is used to rushing into trouble to save her victims from abuse or assault. And with a handsome officer like Joe Hart at her side, Grace is sure there’s nothing she can’t do. But an ominous storm brewing on the Oregon horizon is about to change everything-and bring with it dangers and revelations Grace and Joe never expected.

This is one of those books that took me a while to get into. Not because it wasn't interesting, because it was, but because of the subject matter. It's the story of Grace James, a victim's advocate, who works with victims of domestic abuse and violence.

The author did a great job of giving enough detail to let you know these women lived in bad situations without getting too graphic. I am fortunate to not have firsthand experience with this and cringed at what I read, while also realizing that the author didn't go too dark.

Grace, as well as some other characters, are LDS (or Mormon) so there are some religious references. Each of them are able to help the women and their families in different ways. Women in these situations can be misunderstood and blamed for the situation they are in and Ms. Symonds did a great job in humanizing them and helping the reader see how they can get there. She also shows the incredible courage it takes to accept help and gain control once more of their lives.

There are quite a few characters, and the story jumped back and forth between them. At times, that made it hard to remember which couple belonged to which situation, especially at the beginning. Once I could keep everyone straight, the story flowed better for me. There were some intense situations which kept me turning pages to find out what would happen next. I never felt like I could completely relax because I didn't know when certain characters would show up again.

Overall, I enjoyed this book! It's heavier than what I've been reading lately, and I like the way the author handled the subject matter. There were lighter times that balanced out the heavier times, like family activities, light romance, and an overall feeling of hope. There were a few loose ends so hopefully there will be more!

Author Interview

1. Safe House is your debut novel. Have you written anything else?

You’re the first person to ask me!

Recently, I attended a book signing at a hospital where I worked last year. I confessed in front of a large group of friends that I had been a closet writer for years. I explained that I had written around 200 self-help articles for FamilyShare.com or Deseret Connect. I had written for the BillionClicks.org blog created by Hilary Weeks, singer and songwriter. I had also written lyrics to a love song which is on a CD sold on the coast. I am hoping the song stays hidden! The music is great but the lyrics are sappy.

I came home from the signing and told my mother my secret was out. I was no longer an anonymous writer. She laughed and told me I was meant to be a writer. She said even when I was a small child, if I got into trouble, I would write her an apology letter.

2. The Oregon Coast plays a role in the book. Why did you decide to place the story in a small town on the coast?

Several years ago, when I was a full-time advocate, helping with the local domestic violence shelter on occasion and responding to domestic assaults and sexual assaults over a hundred times a year, we had a rare and terrifying storm.

At the time of the storm phone lines went down, the roads flooded trapping the entire county inside county lines, winds of well over 100 mph blew sustained and kept anyone out of the area from even being able to fly over in a helicopter.

We were essentially cut off, except by ham radio. After the flooding withdrew, the roads were covered by mountains of large pine trees which had blown over or snapped off 16 feet in the air. Tsunami alarms went off, fire and police couldn’t navigate roads, 911 was down and you couldn’t call for help. During the storm, I decided it was the perfect setting for a story.

I also wrote about what I know. I know small town life by the sea.

3. Domestic violence is a difficult subject. Why did you write about it? What did you leave out of Safe House?

When I decided to write Safe House it served two purposes. Safe House, if well written would not only completely entertain the reader, it would inspire readers to care about survivors of intimate partner abuse.

You’re right, domestic violence is a difficult subject but the powerful story of survival, overcoming great odds and risking love after abuse is universal and inspiring.

What did I leave out of Safe House? Although it does contain scenes of domestic violence and abuse. I left out swearing, graphic sexual scenes and unnecessary violence for violence sake.
The scenes of abuse described in Safe House are necessary to the story and part of the honest struggle for freedom from abuse. They exist to create conflict, heroes and villains, and a basic understanding of the real plight of the survivors and their children. We all know the problem, but Safe House will be some people’s first look at a solution, hope and healing.

4. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Do not stop! Everyone told me I needed a day job. I shouldn’t have listened. I still work at a non-profit, but only do advocacy a few nights a week. I have, for the first time in my life put writing first. I should have done it years ago. Food is optional, right?

5. Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?

Haley Miller of Captures Photography worked with me on photographic art to tickle the book, raise awareness of domestic violence and send messages of hope to survivors. The photos were taken on the Oregon Coast. The models are friends and beautiful local women.

Below are pieces from Haley Miller Captures Photography’s work. They are free for the taking. You may copy, paste, print and post.


Meridian Magazine review of SAFE HOUSE by Shannon Symonds
Safe House by Shannon Symonds is not an easy book to read, but it is impossible to forget. It deals with the difficult subject of domestic abuse. If anyone has ever wondered why an abused spouse doesn’t just leave, this story will answer that question. An abused spouse is usually penniless and worries about how and where she’ll live if she leaves or worries about her or her children’s safety if she leaves and becomes homeless. Shattered self-esteem is another factor. This book also points out how to find help. It’s also a great story.” Jennie Hansen

5.0 out of 5 starsSymonds has crafted a book that is easy to read and infused with messages of hope and ...
ByAmazon Customeron July 19, 2017
Format: Paperback
“Safe House paints a poignant portrait of domestic violence centered in a close, coastal community. Multiple stories and perspectives weave together to showcase the ways abuse affects a victim along with their children, parents, other family members, neighbors, and the abusers themselves. The author's vivid, detailed writing style uses multi-sensory descriptions to transport the reader inside a character's physical and emotional experiences; for example, a climatic confrontation between victim and abuser set in a backyard garden. As a longtime victim advocate, Symonds is able to draw inspiration from her own intimate interactions with survivors, providing another layer of depth and meaning to Safe House. While tackling a hard and heartbreaking topic, Symonds has crafted a book that is easy to read and infused with messages of hope and resiliency.”

Shannon Symonds currently works as an Advocate serving victims of intimate partner or family violence. Shannon responds with law enforcement to the scene of domestic or sexual assaults, works with victims, accompanies them to the hospital and provides follow-up care. She is a trained trauma and recovery specialist, has completed the Oregon Coalition training as a professional advocate, has completed training as a parent educator, Head Start Teacher, early childhood education certification and one year program, an Associates Degree with an emphasis in Social Services, has worked and trained as an advocate for over 15 years total. She is the recipient of the Oregon Trial Lawyers award for her work to change housing for victims of domestic violence. She is a confident trainer and speaker, and is comfortable working with the public.

Tour Schedule:


sherry fundin said...

Gorgeous cover and it makes me want to be there, sitting on the dock of the bay, wastin' time. :-) Sounds heavy and I have to be in the right mood to take on a book like this. Glad to know it was a good one.
sherry @ fundinmental

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