Saturday, September 26, 2015

O.o.O.C.: "Heart Like Mine" by Amy Hatvany

Out of Orbit Critiques are the reviews on books that stray outside my usual genres. In Heart Like Mine's case, this book is a work of contemporary fiction.

I was feeling like reading something completely different when I picked this up, as evidenced by the genre. Generally I stay far away from contemporary books, as they usually don't offer much for me other than entertainment value and an interesting story. That was very much the case with this book, which I picked up on a whim when it was a daily deal.

One thing I did appreciate in this book was Grace's job as the boss of an organization dedicated to helping survivors of domestic abuse. I found it kind of unrealistic that she got paid much (those sort of jobs generally aren't meant to pay well), but as it wasn't the main storyline of the book I didn't mind as much. I think fiction can be as much of a powerful and persuasive tool for change as any other medium, especially due to it being more subtle about things than nonfiction, so I thought the little detail of her work was a good add-in for this book.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'When a young mother dies under mysterious circumstances, those she leaves behind begin looking for answers in the past—and find a long-buried secret they could have never imagined.
Thirty-six-year-old Grace McAllister never longed for children. But when she meets Victor Hansen, a handsome, charismatic divorced restaurateur who is father to Max and Ava, Grace decides that, for the right man, she could learn to be an excellent part-time stepmom. After all, the kids live with their mother, Kelli. How hard could it be?
'At thirteen, Ava Hansen is mature beyond her years. Since her parents’ divorce, she has been the one taking care of her emotionally unstable mother and her little brother—she pays the bills, does the laundry, and never complains because she loves her mama more than anyone. And while her father’s new girlfriend is nice enough, Ava still holds out hope that her parents will get back together and that they’ll be a family again.
'But only days after Victor and Grace get engaged, Kelli dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances—and soon, Grace and Ava discover there was much more to Kelli’s life than either ever knew.
'Narrated by Grace and Ava in the present with flashbacks into Kelli’s troubled past, Heart Like Mine is a poignant and hopeful portrait about womanhood, love, and the challenges of family life.'

Another aspect I liked was that Grace really didn't want to be a mother, but she still steps up to the plate despite her fears when Kelli dies. I couldn't stand Ava, despite briefly empathizing with her- she just acts like a three year old, despite having been her mom's sort of caretaker. Grief does strange things to everyone, but it doesn't completely reset all of our personality traits. Victor was probably the most frustrating- he's an adult, but he acts like he's mute with no source of communication. Even as someone who often struggles to say what I mean (in a semi-tactful manner) I'm not as silent as the grave when things need to be said.

The main story and the secrets that Kelli kept frustrated me as someone who knows a lot more on the subject than most. I'm not sure the plot was realistic, despite its obvious entertainment value, as many of the things mentioned would be outrageously illegal in the time that this book was set in. However, I may have also been irked that some of the characters would make the same mistake over and over again, with quite obvious intent to advance the plot. I think I may give historical fiction a lot more leeway in creative license because I wasn't around during the time it was set (and the legal system was shadier in past times) but to me some of the drama in this book was just over the top and not realistic to the time it was set in.

Heart Like Mine proved to be an interesting story, but didn't make me want to go on a contemporary fiction binge. It may be frustrating to read for those of you who abhor secrets as much as I do- it's one thing to keep a couple of details of your life private from your family, but your entire past? It may have been a little too dramatic for my taste, especially considering I have a family member with a similar past as Kelli who is completely transparent about it. If you love contemporary fiction with a focus on familial issues, you'll likely enjoy this book more than I did, due to my genre proclivities.

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a good story that wasn't my gateway drug for contemporary fiction.

Content: Ages 16+ for brief sexual tidbits, too much tweenage angst, and too many secrets.

Page Count: 370 pages

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