Current Goodreads rating: 4.29 out of 5 stars
Current Amazon rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars
From Publishers Weekly
Published April 10, 2015
Chicago couple Mandelyn and Henry had a happy, loving marriage and were eagerly expecting the arrival of a son. However, Mandelyn had a miscarriage, and they have both spent the last four years grieving; their marriage has suffered for it. Mandelyn starts seeing an online counselor, and as she delves into her romantic past, the process brings up feelings of regret about how her relationships ended. When Henry discovers what she has been doing, he “releases” her to go figure herself out and decide whether she wants to recommit to their marriage. She goes to Sedona, Ariz., and begins a process of personal healing, emerging stronger and ready to commit to Henry, start a family again, and most importantly, forgive herself. Nunki has effectively plotted a woman’s meandering journey through past relationships, albeit with coincidences that stretch believability. Her command of setting is strong—she captures both Chicago and Sedona very well. Readers will recognize aspects of their own lives in Mandelyn and will enjoy following her journey.
From Goodreads, Laura
Published April 12, 2015
5 of 5 stars: I really enjoyed Hope Russell Nunki’s novel. Her storytelling comes with ease, as if the reader is sitting down with a girlfriend and a good glass of wine sharing stories. Bits and pieces of the main character’s life is revealed through the present and flashbacks. I love this style as it pulls you in trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together just as the main character is trying to do herself. A very impressive first novel!
From Windy City Reviews (Chicago Writers Association)
Published March 26, 2015
The novel Release, by Hope Russell Nunki, covers many subjects such as loss, love, and the ability to rise again. It tells various stories about subjects that are relevant today: coming out of the closet, dealing with a failing economic system, and suffering from depression. The novel has the ability to be relatable and tells a story that one will enjoy. Every character develops and goes through a struggle in some way, whether it be bringing up a past memory or trying to deal with the regret that goes with it.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, there were aspects that I found quite clichéd. Our society seems to prey on romantic stories that deal with tragedy and loss. This does make romance “relatable” to the reader; in fact, I found the story quite readable. Releasereads very much like a Lifetime movie. It is a very simple, present, and feel-good story. This subject, seeing a love lost, is covered in most romantic novels very often.
Nunki throws different things into the text to make it a bit compelling, though this does not necessarily make the story more enthralling. There are numerous bits of cliché and easily noticed irony—for example, using Leap Day as something that is significant. Leap Day is known for being a rare occasion; it is usually a day off so it is incredibly ironic that the main character has a miscarriage on that day. Does the Leap Day misfortune really give way to love? Does it make her dwell on the miscarriage? Instead of showing grit and honesty, which romance novels seem to tiptoe around, Nunki took a very comforting route. Not necessarily bad but it makes the reader say, “This isn’t realistic.” The novel is a feel-good read, however, and a bit easy to predict. I believe Nunki is a great author and the novel is written well. Release has a lot of similarity to a Nicholas Sparks feel-good romance.
From Goodreads, Molly
Published February 10, 2015
5 of 5 stars: Wonderfully developed characters and a captivating story. I couldn’t put it down.
From Goodreads, Kendra
Published December 31, 2014
4 of 5 stars: Realistic adventures in life and a proficient story line that would appeal to most readers. Complexity of life as we all encounter, can you begin again? This book may have a little of all of us in it! Looking forward to more from Hope.
From Amazon, Time 4 Books “jessov”
Published December 28, 2014
4 of 5 stars: A wonderful first novel! Heartwrenching and relatable. The only thing keeping it from 5 stars is that in a few places I felt I was being educated about architecture, vortexes (yes I know that’s not the correct plural; read the book!), Chicago history, etc. a little too much. But the story kept me engaged, and I found pieces of myself in Mandelyn.
From The Casual Perfectionist
Published December 21, 2014
There were lots of surprises hidden in Release by Hope Russell Nunki.
I love the point when you can find the title of a book within the pages, and I always anticipate the moment of finding it and making that connection with the author. Although this happened relatively early in this book, the meaning behind the title shifted and morphed throughout, and that was an interesting twist.
Speaking of twists, there are some others, too! I love a book that can keep your mind engaged with just enough predictability to feel like home and then surprise you with a twist you weren’t expecting.
Although this is a work of fiction, the author writes in such a way as to describe the different settings in this book perfectly. Having graduated from a small private college in Iowa, I can attest that Hope Russell Nunki is spot-on in her depiction of that experience. At times, it was as though I was looking back at footage of my own college days. As odd as it sounds, in addition to my Midwestern roots, I have also fallen in love with the desert southwest, so it’s never a surprise for me when a main character does as well.
Release wasn’t just a book of happiness and light, though. In fact, for those of us with certain triggers, parts of this book were hard to read. As someone who has suffered a miscarriage I will tell you, the heartache, pain, confusion, and second-guessing of every minute detail and the hysteria it can cause are very real. Some work through things in more efficient ways than others. The sting of such a loss may never truly die, and the rate at which it fades is based on a myriad of factors. Again, the author succeeded in making this fictional story very real.
Was it worth reliving personal pain to experience this story along with Mandelyn? Yes, it was. As uncomfortable as this is, it’s an integral part of Mandelyn and Henry’s story.
I loved the journey this story provides, with all the ups and downs, and twists and turns. I found myself crossing my fingers for various characters in this book. At times my wishes were granted, and at others, not so much. I couldn’t wait to see how it would end.
From Amazon, Nancy Garay
Published December 16, 2014
I could not put it down! I loved this book. It made me laugh out loud and cry. I felt a real attachment to the characters.
From Bibliotica, Melissa A. Bartell
Published December 10, 2014
When I was offered a review copy of this novel, I hesitated for a while, but only because I had so many reviews that I’d committed to. As it is, I waited longer than I meant to before posting it. This is in no way a reflection of Hope Russell Nunki’s fantastic novel.
From the first scene, where Mandelyn comes home to find her husband Henry confronting her with information about her files, through the next chapter, where we learn about their stillborn son, four years earlier, through the rest of the novel, the author writes with a clear voice, in first person (which can often be tricky). We feel her protagonist’s pain even when we sympathize with Henry…and we want to see her life improve.
What follows is a journey through pain and loss to self-awareness, and eventually self-fulfillment. The pitch I received described this novel as both ‘poignant’ and ‘hilarious’ and both are equally true. This is contemporary women’s fiction at its best: full of characters that sound real, emotions that ring true, and situations that may be somewhat heightened versions of reality, but never lack plausibility.
It’s a gripping debut novel, a compelling read, and one I highly recommend. As well, I look forward to what Hope Russell Nunki creates next (no pressure.)
Goes well with Koval white rye, and a cheese plate.
From Goodreads, Minirookha
Published November 12, 2014
5 of 5 stars: I highly recommend Release, by Hope Russell Nunki. Fans of Tana French or Sara Gruen will enjoy the lyrical narration, while those inclined towards literary fiction will be surprised by Nunki’s stark display of human faults and failings. The portrait of the contemporary human condition is at once startling and oddly familiar. Accessible, but thought provoking, this debut is certain to become a book club favorite. It is truly an enjoyable read- start to finish. Remarkable!
From Goodreads, Absinthedragonfly
Nov 10, 2014
5 of 5 stars: When tragedy hits your life, you’re faced with the question, of “How do I put my life back together, after something so devastating? How do I pick up the pieces of what was, and make something new, and beautiful out of it?” The path back to “normal” isn’t neat and tidy. I feel that Hope has written a book that illustrates this very well. I finished this book in 3 days, I was drawn into the story, and the characters. I didn’t necessarily like all of them, but they felt real to me. The tragedy in this book was different than the one that affected my family. But sometimes you read something that hits you deeply. And reminds you of the lessons hard won through life’s experiences. Release is that book. Please go and check it out!
From Goodreads, Brooke Heavey
Published Nov 09, 2014
5 of 5 stars: This was a very good read from a first-time author! The character development was excellent, and the story was very descriptive without being overbearing. I tend to get a little lost when stories have too many descriptive words, but this was a well paced book, and kept my attention the full way through! Can’t wait to see what else this author comes out with next, as she is one I would read from again!
From Escape Into Life, Ashley Devick
Published November 7, 2014
In the midst of the hustle and the bustle of daily life, it’s easy to let the days, weeks and even years pass by, becoming inured to a state in which unhappiness has taken hold. Odds are, as is the case with Release’s heroine Mandelyn, you don’t even know how you got there. Mandelyn has an admirable career, two rescue pitbulls, a handsome husband and a love that’s worth saving. But their fortitude as a couple is tested after tragedy makes its way into their marriage. Unable to come up for air, their relationship gradually starts to crumble. Then, Mandelyn’s life reaches a breaking point—something drastic happens that brings her back to reality.
Everyone knows how it feels when you’re caught. Flashing lights in the rear-view mirror. A teacher’s tap on the shoulder. Mom or Dad hollering from the porch. As I crossed my threshold, nothing in my home felt level or square. The parallel and perpendicular lines of tables and picture frames, of banisters and stair treads all felt askew. Our dogs didn’t meet me at the door. The light was all wrong, and my vision wavered at the periphery. Sleet pelted against the window, yet the room felt silent.
And there he was, with my laptop open, the screen facing me. Henry sat motionless, facing away. “Where have you been?” he rasped without turning around.
“The storm, traffic,” I said. The drive from Chicago took more than three hours—a distance that rarely took a third of that in good weather. He looked my way. His eyes were dead and forlorn. “Mandelyn, where have you been? Come and tell me,” he said, patting the cushion beside him.
I shed my long black parka over the railing and my bags at the foot of the steps, then I circled the sofa to sit beside him. “Where are Frank and Lloyd?” I asked, but as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I remembered. “Oh, shit. Day care.”
Unphased, he continued. “I had to use your computer. I caught an early train to avoid the crowds. I didn’t want to haul an ice-crusted backpack through Ogilvie. I needed to work, but I couldn’t find the tablet.”
“I have it,” I said, beginning to rise, but he stopped me with his right hand over mine.
“What is CVC, who is Morgan, and, one more time, Where. Have. You. Been?”
In the absence of communication, Mandelyn’s journey begins.
Release, by newcomer Hope Russell Nunki, is a poignant story about a woman who decides to stop being trapped in the space between empty words and lack of passion, and find out why complacency has taken the reins in her life. Three years have passed since the event that caused the couple so much pain. Something had to give. But to move forward and forgive herself, Mandelyn has to allow herself to be set free and let passion rule, and readers are brought along for the ride. It’s as though we are hearing the best parts of a profound conversation.
“I have to release you. Go. Find yourself. See if something or someone—in your past or in your future—holds the keys to your happiness. Maybe you’ll find what you need somewhere inside you. If you don’t live this life fully, Mandelyn, it won’t be on my account. I think you know I love you, but if the character of my love doesn’t fulfill you, I don’t have anything else to offer.”
Release captures a woman’s experience coming to terms with how her past has shaped her present, while also nudging readers into evaluating their own relationships. Written in beautiful, thoughtful prose, the novel reminds us to slow down and ponder the roles we allow people to play in our lives; that we are never too complete to seek new answers. After all, there is no relationship more complicated than the one we have with ourselves.
Ashley K. Devick is a professional writer, editor and business owner based in Chicago. When she’s not blogging about business and bridesmaids, she is writing all things real estate and design for Splash Home with the Chicago Sun-Times. She has a masters degree in journalism from the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism and a bachelors degree in Creative Writing from the University of Tennessee. For more information from a constantly updated website, please visit ashleydevick.com.