After basically raising her younger brother and growing up without a strong mother-figure, thirty-six-year-old Grace doesn’t want her own kids. Not that she’s heartless—she runs a social service program helping battered women rebuild their shattered lives. She just doesn’t think she was born with the “mother” gene, and that’s okay.
Then she meets Victor, a charismatic restauranteur—and divorced dad. But Grace thinks she can handle the part-time stepmom thing for the right man. Victor’s kids, Ava and Max seem nice enough. But just days after Victor pops the question, this ex-wife, Kelli, is found dead. Grace is suddenly thrust into the position of full-time stepmom to the grieving children.
Thirteen-year-old Ava has been taking care of her younger brother and unstable mom since her parents’ divorce. She runs their daily lives, doing anything in her power to keep her damaged family afloat, because family is everything… and then everything comes crashing down.
We flashback to Kelli’s troubled childhood, to her strict life she struggled to escape. Kelli is by far the most damaged of the three women (or soon-to be women) in this tale, and we discover that much of what she told of her past was lies. Who was this woman Victor married, who loved her children more than anything, who disintegrated before their eyes?
The hardest character to sympathize with was Victor. While he was a wonderful man who loved both his fiancee and his kids, his dedication to his career—his restaurant—often drove him from those who desperately needed him. It’s a struggle typical of men, attempting to balance the demands of a more than full-time career while physically and emotionally being there for his family. Like the women in the story, I wanted him to be there more.
Heart Like Mine is a wonderful character-driven novel. Hatvany manages to create three distinct women’s voices to narrate the story. I identified most with Grace—even though I am the opposite of a childless career woman. I admired her strength, her open-mindedness, and her honesty with herself, even when times got tough. Ava could have become a stereotypical teen girl, but she reveals her many layers as she wrestles with her beloved mother’s death and her entire world turned upside down. At times I felt sorry for Kelli, by far the weakest woman in the story, yet at other times I wanted to smack her. A life of lies—even those told with good intentions—never ends well.
I found it interesting how there were no heroes or villains, just regular people, each somehow damaged by their pasts, struggling to do what’s right. As the perspectives switched, my loyalty followed each woman/girl as she shared her tale.
Heart Like Mine is a compelling story about finding love, family, and acceptance.
Rating: BUY IT.