Sunday, February 3, 2013

Heart Like Mine, by Amy Hatvany

Kelli had a difficult adolescence, so when she fell in love and married Victor, she finally had someone to love her.  Two kids and 13 years later, her marriage has fallen apart, she is divorced, and constantly reliving the pain of all of her losses.  Meanwhile, Victor has fallen in love with a new woman, Grace.  Just as Victor and Grace prepare to announce their engagement, Kelli suddenly dies, leaving Victor and Grace to raise the children.  The daughter, Ava, is approaching adolescence herself, and is determined to learn more about the mother who left her so suddenly.

This book mesmerized me from the very moment I started reading.  When a book starts off with a death, you cannot help but fall down the rabbit hole so to speak.  I thought the story was well constructed, with just enough layers to propel the story swiftly, but not so many that the plot got cluttered.  The balance of past and present was very skillfully maintained.

The points of view switch between Grace, Kelli, and Ava.  I adored Grace as a character.  I found her to be very real, and honest.  As a woman in my thirties who has no children, I certainly was able to relate to her choices in life, and the reactions she got from people concerning those choices.  I admire her strength as a character.  Ava's narrative bothered me a little.  As a character, I really liked her, but her narrative just was unconvincing.  Half the time, she did not talk like a 13 year old girl but instead like a middle aged woman.  When she did talk like a teenager, it range false; all in all her narrative (though not her choices in the story) seemed rather inconsistent.  As for Kelli, I had a hard time sympathizing with her character, and I am not sure why.  She was a good person who made bad choices, and I did not hold that against her.  I think I just saw her as a weak person, a cliche' of what women are told they need to be (particularly a line where she says she stuck her chest during an interview to get the job).

Despite the fact that I had difficulties with some of the characters, I still think this is a fabulous book.  I think we are meant to have difficulties with this story; you simply cannot root for both Grace and Kelli, since their desires are directly at odds.  Some readers may adore Kelli and hate Grace, and I think that is perfectly ok.  The point is that the story elicits a strong emotional reaction.  I simply could not put the book down, and read it in a 5 hour marathon sitting.  It was that good.  The story is engaging, and a bit heartbreaking.  Fans of contemporary fiction, particularly women's fiction, will enjoy this book.

I received a review copy courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.

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