Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm really glad that Amy Hatvany's "Best Kept Secret" turned up in my recommendations a month or so ago, because I really enjoy her books. In "Heart Like Mine", the heart in question is Grace's. A single woman getting close to forty, she loves her job and wants to meet a man, but doesn't want kids. Then, she meets a guy through a dating service. Oh, *that* guy turns out to be an ignorant troglodyte, and he (quite rightly) ends up wearing her drink. Enter Victor, the handsome restaurant owner! Uh huh!
The thing is, Victor has two children, a thirteen year old girl named Ava, and a seven year old son named Max. Still, they're only with their dad every other weekend, and with their mother, Kelli, Victor's ex-wife, the rest of the time, so not so bad. Besides, Grace doesn't hate kids, she just likes her peaceful life and her job. But then, the very week that Grace and Victor were planning to tell the kids about their engagement, Kelli is found dead in her bed, from unknown causes. That changes everything. Suddenly, Grace finds herself stepmom to two grief-stricken, shell-shocked children, and has to do it with Victor working long hours at the restaurant and not always backing her up with the children. She wonders if a heart like hers is up to the task.
The story is told from three different points of view: Grace's, Ava's and (in flashbacks and third person) Kelli's. Kelli was by far my favorite character. There is a secret in her past, one that caused a permanent rift between her and her parents, and has left her haunted and emotionally fragile. Certain flawed heroines in books have really appealed to my imagination, like April in Caroline Leavitt's "Pictures Of You", or the incomparable, unforgettable Antoinette Rivaudais in Robert Girardi's "Madeleine's Ghost." Here, Kelli is a beautiful woman and a devoted mom who just wants her family and to fit in with the other mothers, which she does not. But she loses her husband, the other mothers resent her for her sex appeal, which does not go unnoticed by their husbands, and she leans on her daughter for things like paying the household bills. She seems to be in a spiral, but why?
Grace and Ava both want the answer to that question, knowing that peace of mind and the future of this new family depend upon finding it. I should say here that I also loved the character of Ava, bravely trying to sort through her hurt and confusion, and Grace, who finds out just what a heart like hers is capable of. I wholeheartedly recommend "Heart Like Mine."
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