Heart Like Mine: A Novel by Amy Hatvany (Washington Square Press, $15.00, 345 pages)
I must have been in my office when she took her last breath, when she’d crawled into bed after dropping the kids off at school. I was sitting at my desk, reviewing those client files, no idea that everything was about to change.
I had a difficult time trying to make my way through one of Amy Hatvany’s earlier novels. Well, this was not a problem with Heart Like Mine, a fully engaging story of love and family. Grace McAllister is a thirty-six-year-old woman who has never married — she’s always felt that she would be a less-than-competent mother — but under strange circumstances (they “meet cute”) she happens to meet the owner of a Seattle restaurant. Victor has two children, but that’s not an issue for Grace since their attractive mother Kelli — who was divorced from Victor three years earlier — takes care of them.
Grace and Victor become engaged to be married, and Victor meets Kelli for coffee to let her know the news. Before Grace and Victor can proceed to tell the children, Ava and Max, Kelli is found dead in her bed.
Heart Like Mine places a few questions before the reader… Is Victor the man he seems to be or is he hiding something? Can Grace learn to be a good stepmother to the children at a time when they will hate anyone who attempts to replace the mother they loved? Did Kelli, who suffered from depression and still loved Victor, take her own life after learning that he was to re-marry?
My throat thickened at the realization that I would never know when my life might come to an end. How suddenly everything might be lost.
Kelli perceives that’s she’s physically and possibly mentally ill, but seems unable to come to grips with reality. But then her life had spun out of control when she was just 14.
The story is told primarily through the voices and perspectives of Grace and young Ava; although Kelli is the narrator of a couple of chapters. Grace is excited about the prospect of marrying Victor and is suddenly blindsided by being a substitute parent to two grieving children. Her relationship with Victor quickly deteriorates, especially as he’s trying to keep his restaurant open in a down economy. Ava knows that her mother and her grandparents kept secrets and she’s determined to find the truth even if she has to run away from home to do so.
Hatvany cleverly ties all the storylines together at the end. It is a conclusion that just might be the opening to the next part of the new family’s tale. Whether or not that’s the case, I’ll be looking forward to reading the next engaging page-turner from this writer who views life as something that’s never quite under our control.
A review copy was received from the publisher. “Amy Hatvany writes with depth and compassion.” Luanne Rice, author of The Silver Boat.