New Release Book Review: Just After Midnight by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Just After Midnight…

About the Book:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Pay It Forward comes an uplifting and poignant novel about friendship, trust, and facing your fears.

No longer tolerating her husband’s borderline abuse, Faith escapes to her parents’ California beach house to plan her next move. She never dreamed her new chapter would involve befriending Sarah, a fourteen-year-old on the run from her father and reeling from her mother’s sudden and suspicious death.

While Sarah’s grandmother scrambles to get custody, Faith is charged with spiriting the girl away on a journey that will restore her hope: Sarah implores Faith to take her to Falkner’s Midnight Sun, the prized black mare that her father sold out from under her. Sarah shares an unbreakable bond with Midnight and can’t bear to be apart from her. Throughout the sweltering summer, as they follow Midnight from show to show, Sarah comes to terms with what she witnessed on the terrible night her mother died.

But the journey is far from over. Faith must learn the value of trusting her instincts—and realize that the key to her future, and Sarah’s, is in her hands.

My Thoughts:

Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novels are so under-rated, in my opinion. I have never seen a paperback of hers on a shelf in any store, and even when there’s a new release, I usually find it by accident on my eBook retailer’s shelves, never in a promotion or by a review. I really hope this is just an Australian thing. I sense she’s very well known in her homeland of America, but her stories are universal, and I just think so many readers in other countries are missing out on such a good author. So, I’ll keep doing my bit by reading and reviewing her novels, one by one, in the hopes that I can persuade some of you to give her a go.

Just After Midnight is a journey novel, both actually and metaphorically. Faith is putting some distance between herself and her husband after finally leaving him. Sarah is in danger, emotionally and possibly physically, after witnessing her mother’s death. After meeting Sarah and her grandmother, Constance, quite by accident, a series of circumstances leads her to getting to know the pair, and subsequently, helping them out by taking Sarah away with her for the summer as a means of protecting the girl. Just After Midnight is very much a character driven novel, and while it’s told in Faith’s voice only, Catherine Ryan Hyde has such skill as a writer that we clearly hear Sarah and even Constance, and feel their pain, what they’re going through, and sense what it is they need, without ever being in their heads. Just After Midnight is also a horse novel. It’s about dressage, something Catherine Ryan Hyde knows a lot about, so we are treated to the ins and outs of the sport as Faith goes from knowing nothing to having a reasonable grasp on the basics. More than this though, is the aspect of connection between a horse and its owner. I absolutely love horse novels, it’s inexplicable, I don’t even have a horse, but I love them and I always have. So for me, the strong focus on horses throughout this novel was like heaven spread over the pages. And because we were being guided with such expertise by Catherine, the knowledge was woven into the narrative seamlessly, and never appeared as a dressage lesson or a case of information overload.

“How do I say this?” he continued. “That girl and that mare, they belong together. They need to be together. That girl has put her whole life outside of school into riding dressage, and that horse is her partner. Her match. It’s so wrong for them to be separated that we can hardly even sleep at night. It’s like the world should have shifted off its axis because this is so wrong, what happened, and we can’t figure out how life is just going on like it’s all okay. The more time you spend around her, the more I hope you’re getting that.”
“I think I pretty well have it,” Faith said. “I just don’t know what anybody can do about it.”

Essentially, Just After Midnight is about trauma. Sarah’s mother is not long dead, she believes her father is responsible, and on the back of this, he has sold her beloved horse, Midnight, to clear a gambling debt. But he did it without telling her. And this is no small thing because the horse is valued at $75,000. The betrayal to Sarah is portrayed with stunning clarity. This girl is grieving, afraid, angry, and frantically worried about her horse. She convinces Faith to follow the dressage circuit for the summer so she can be with Midnight a bit longer. The connection between Sarah and Midnight was profound.

“I’m not a perfect person by any means, Faith, but I do genuinely love horses. I love what I do because I care about them so. There’s a thing that happens to horses who are sold to too many owners – a sort of spiraling slide down into misery. The more times they’re sold, the more sour they get, and the more sour they get, the more times they’re sold. I care too much for that beautiful animal to see that happen. And in addition to caring for horses, I care for the vulnerable young girls who love them. Especially the ones who are humble enough and grateful enough to appreciate a fine horse when they have one.”

Where does Faith fit into all this? She’s in her late thirties but has no children. The state of her marriage has led to this, so now she’s finding herself in the role of a mother figure to Sarah, a trusted confidante. It allows her to focus on something other than her husband, but bearing witness to Sarah’s trauma also allows Faith the opportunity to gain clarity over her own situation, leading to some ground-breaking decisions and courageous moments. I just loved Faith. She was so giving; a rare and special person. The relationship that develops between Faith and Sarah was so special, all the more I think because neither were actually looking for it. One of those serendipitous right place at the right time moments that change lives. These are the sorts of moments Catherine Ryan Hyde is known for building novels up from.

There are some hard hitting moments throughout, raw and intense, where a character’s pain is a tangible force on the page.

“I didn’t mean that. I meant…should I wake her? You know how when a child is having a nightmare and they’re acting afraid in their sleep? You wake them. You kiss them awake to save them from it. So they’ll see there’s nothing to be afraid of. But what do you do when a child is heartbroken in her sleep but the world you’re waking her up into is no better?”

I just love the imagery Catherine generates with her words. You feel yourself in the scene, experiencing the emotions as the characters do. She is such a good writer. I’ve read several of her novels now, and each one has affected me deeply.

‘Harlan Deaver looked down at the carpet in shame. Faith couldn’t even see his face. But she could feel his shame. It was in his body language. It was there in the room. It all but filled up the breathable air, leaving no room for anything else to exist.’

If you like your fiction hard hitting and authentic, character driven and immersive, I highly recommend Just After Midnight. You may likely cry, but you’ll also rejoice in the beauty of human connection and be awed by the love that exists between a teenage girl and her horse.

‘Faith thought from the girl’s voice that she might be crying. Or right on the edge of it. Just at that place where emotions twist your mouth around and cause a word to come out sounding shaky and strange. But in the dark it was hard to tell.’


Thanks is extended to Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley for providing me with a copy of Just After Midnight for review.

About the Author:

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of more than thirty published and forthcoming books. An avid hiker, traveller, equestrian, and amateur photographer, she has released her first book of photos, 365 Days of Gratitude: Photos From a Beautiful World. Her novel Pay It Forward was adapted into a major motion picture, chosen by the American Library Association for its Best Books for Young Adults list, and translated into more than twenty-three languages for distribution in over thirty countries. Both Becoming Chloe and Jumpstart the World were included on the ALA’s Rainbow List, and Jumpstart the World was a finalist for two Lambda Literary Awards. Where We Belong won two Rainbow Awards in 2013, and The Language of Hoofbeats won a Rainbow Award in 2015. More than fifty of her short stories have been published in the Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, the Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and many other journals and in the anthologies Santa Barbara Stories and California Shorts and the bestselling anthology Dog Is My Co-Pilot. Her stories have been honored by the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and the Tobias Wolff Award and nominated for Best American Short Stories, the O’Henry Award, and the Pushcart Prize. Three have been cited in Best American Short Stories. She is founder and former president (2000–2009) of the Pay It Forward Foundation and still serves on its board of directors. As a professional public speaker, she has addressed the National Conference on Education, twice spoken at Cornell University, met with AmeriCorps members at the White House, and shared a dais with Bill Clinton. For more information and book club questions, please visit the author at

Just After Midnight
Published by Lake Union Publishing
Released on 4th December 2018

5 thoughts on “New Release Book Review: Just After Midnight by Catherine Ryan Hyde

  1. I’ve never heard of this author…ever. But I absolutely love love love Pay it Forward, had no idea it was a book-to-movie adaptation. I just might have to put this author on my ‘must read’ list. I love intense cry-your-heart out books.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Six Degrees of Separation: From Murmur to Heresy… | Theresa Smith Writes

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