Review: Safe With Me by Amy Hatvany

Title: Safe With Me

Author: Amy Hatvany

Published: Allen & Unwin March 2014 /Washington Square Press March 2014

Read the first three chapters

Status: Read on February 28, 2014 {Courtesy Allen & Unwin and Washington Square Press/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Told from the perspectives of Hannah, Olivia and Maddie, Amy Hatvany’s Safe with Me is an emotive story of tragedy, grief, friendship, secrets and second chances.

A year after her twelve year old daughter’s tragic death, Hannah is still struggling with the loss, burying herself in work to distract herself from the memories, the crippling grief mitigated only by the knowledge that part of Emily lives on in those who received her donated organs.
Olivia was just days away from losing her daughter to liver disease when fifteen year old Maddie received the transplant she desperately needed and after decades of enduring an abusive marriage to ensure the health of her child, Olivia can finally make plans for the two of them to escape.
After years of illness and hospitalisation, Maddie can finally lead a more normal life but she’s worried about fitting in at a regular high school, and devastated when the first girl she meets makes snide remarks about her hair and clothing.
To cheer Maddie up, Olivia treats her to a cut and colour at the new and exclusive salon in town where they meet stylist, Hannah. Hannah is stunned when Olivia reveals that twelve months previously, Maddie received a transplant and can’t help but wonder if the teenage girl before her lived because her daughter died. Tentatively Hannah initiates a friendship with Olivia, and the women are surprised at the ease with which they confide in each other but there are some secrets neither are willing to share.

I was absorbed by the intensity of tragedy and emotion that unfolds from the first page of Safe With Me. Hannah’s grief is raw and visceral as she faces the loss of her precious daughter, the agonising decision to donate her organs and then living without her. Olivia’s love and concern for her ill daughter is evident and when we learn of the physical and emotional abuse she has endured for Maddie’s sake we both admire and pity her. Maddie evokes immediate sympathy as a very ill girl and then as an awkward teen as she struggles to rebuild her life.

But if I am honest, on reflection, the plot of Safe With Me resembles a soap opera episode or a lifetime movie. I wish Hatvany hadn’t opted to combine two such emotive issues – organ donation and domestic violence. While I think the author approaches both issues with sensitivity and compassion, it also seems calculated and somehow cheapens the seriousness of both.
I also took issue with some elements of the storyline, I would have liked the author to have developed the friendship between Hannah and Olivia more, for example. Hannah and Maddie’s outrage over Olivia withholding her suspicions that Maddie was the recipient of her daughters liver, seems disproportionate, after all they had shared little more than a hairdressing appointment and a coffee date.

I’ve struggled with this review because while my heart was touched by this story when I was immersed in it, as I began to write down my thoughts I grew increasingly cynical about it all. I can’t deny that Safe With Me is a gripping, affecting read in the moment but some readers, like me, may ultimately find it disingenuous.

Available To Purchase From

 Allen & Unwin I boomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I via Booko

Safe With Me has also been released in the US by Washington Square Press

Available to purchase from

AmazonUS I BookDepository

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. stacybuckeye
    Mar 20, 2014 @ 12:14:13

    I was a little cynical just hearing the storylines, but it sounds like it mostly works.



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