The Girl Who Came Home, by Hazel Gaynor, 2012, Book Review

Today I would like to discuss some things self-published authors should NOT do. Unfortunately, this book will be my shining example. I happened to stumble upon this novel on a blog I admire. It was a guest post by the author promoting her work. I’ve always had a morbid fascination for the Titanic disaster, especially since my grandfather immigrated to America by the same route only a few days later as a very small child. So I purchased the book, assuming the professionalism of the blogger would translate into a professional novel by the guest poster. I assumed wrong.

The Girl Who Came Home isn’t bad. The writer has some good instincts and some very pretty moments. The parallel stories of Maggie, a seventeen-year-old Titanic survivor, and Grace, Maggie’s twenty-one-year-old great-grand daughter, compliment each other well. Both are coming of age stories with tragedy, recovery, romance and hope. Maggie says, ‘I’ve lived a very happy life because of the Titanic. Life is fragile Grace – it is no more than a petal of a cherry blossom; thriving and in full bloom one minute and blown to the ground by a sudden gust of wind the next.’ That’s nice, isn’t it? Sure it is, except for the five punctuation errors. Unless, of course, they punctuate differently in Ireland.

Indie authors, if we ever hope to overcome the stigma attached to us–you know, the one that says we can’t punctuate, spell or locate typos—we must produce quality work. I paid money for this book. Not a lot, but when I pay I expect a book reasonably free of errors. Instead, I found a typo in the publication info at the front of the book and spotted them regularly until the last page. Not just little blips, either. Dialogue is encased in ‘’ instead of “”, punctuation is left outside quote marks, “alright” should not be one word, question marks are used incorrectly, dashes are incorrect, ship names are not italicized, commas are sprinkled randomly throughout and left off where they belong… I could go on and on. And then there were the regular typos.

Now let me talk about redundancy. This whole book needed a red pen to slash sentiments that are repeated too often. Like the regrets Grace has about letting Jimmy get away. We’re told several times she let him go because she couldn’t stand to be hurt again. Once would have been enough. There are many, many areas where a character is hashing over the same territory. I did a lot of skimming.

My point is not to bash this book. I actually enjoyed it for the most part. The cover art is gorgeous, the research is thorough, it has a nice twist at the end, and the descriptions, particularly of the Irish countryside, are exquisite. Disaster scenes on board the sinking ship also resound with authenticity. I could see the looming iceberg, hear the cries of the dying, feel the cold. But the errors were distracting. Had the manuscript been run through a good editor instead of through the family member Ms. Gaynor thanks in her acknowledgements much could have been salvaged. Instead, the book takes the reputation of every self-published author and plunges it into the icy depths along with the fated ship.

Perhaps I’m being tougher than I need to be because I’ve made these mistakes myself. I have worked without an editor, and I have worked with one. I’ve learned my lesson; I will now make a bold statement. Authors can produce every aspect of a book themselves very successfully with one exception: everyone, EVERYONE needs a professional editor. I’ll say it again. Guys! There’s no better investment you can make in your book than running it past someone who knows the business!

In conclusion, I must add, because this is a family-friendly blog focused primarily on middle grade reads, that this book is YA. It contains some sexual references and a fair bit of profanity.

8 thoughts on “The Girl Who Came Home, by Hazel Gaynor, 2012, Book Review

  1. Don’t hold back Michelle! HA! HA! Don’t think I’ve seen you unhappy,but rightfully so. It will impact the credibility of others. I work with an editor and a copy editor. You can’t catch your own mistakes. And, some of the ones you mention show she doesn’t have a grasp of punctuation. Mistakes like this would distract me too. I purchased an ebook from Amazon — a Dr. Wayne Dyer book for kids. It was already in print, but had become an ebook. I was horrified at the lack of supervision and quality control of someone typeing/formatting the book. It was so distracting and I’ve always wondered if they fixed it.

    1. It’s not my intention to be cruel. I respect Ms. Gaynor immensely for writing a full-length novel which has many excellent qualities. But shoddy editing is the reason so many people won’t look at a self-published book twice.

  2. I think the cover of this book is lovely. Like you, I am attracted to books about The Titanic- so this does hold appeal. I have recently stopped reading a MG book because I was so distracted by the typos and other errors that I was not enjoying the story. I wasn’t a big fan of the author’s style of writing, but I probably would have continued if it wasn’t for the errors making the reading even more difficult. You brought up an excellent point in this post- paying for someone else to edit is so important. It is impossible to edit your own work in the same way you would someone else’s writing.

  3. If I ever get around to finally settling down to write, I will definitely keep your observation/advice in mind: Hire a detached professional to edit! Thanks!

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