Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Review: The Heart Mender

I was actually a little excited when I chose this book because it offered something that I love, which is any form of history. I had never heard of Andy Andrews before, but reading the back of the book jacket informed me that he had written several other books which were well-received.

The main theme of The Heart Mender is about forgiveness. The main character, Helen, is pathologically angry at the world after losing her husband to the Germans in WWII. She has isolated herself in a small beach town following the death of an aunt. One night while Helen is walking on the beach because she is too angry to sleep, she finds a guy washed up on the shore. The man is a German, and he has been shot. The remainder of the book is about what happens after she decides to help him.

The book is based on a sort of true story. The author was digging out a dead tree stump around his house and he found a bunch of buttons, a ring, and some pictures in a can. Once he figures out that the paraphenilia belong to a German submariner, he starts researching and finds that, yes, during WWII there were a number of German U-boat attacks on commercial vessels in the Gulf of Mexico. Most people don't know about this, but according to the almighty Wikipedia, there were at least 20 U-boats operating in the Gulf of Mexico at that time. The one German sub that was sunk is still on the bottom of the Gulf. Kind of scary to consider that an enemy like Germany or Japan was able to get that close to North America without our knowledge, but there it was.

The story is fascinating and adds a depth to the history that brings it to life. I found myself wanting to go to that part of the coast and look for silver buttons, and I'm not a fan of sand. I did have some issues with some of the other characters, such as the Gilberts. Andrews' use of conversations between these people, who are supposed to be a loving family, was extremely stilted and formal and came across sounding more preachy than he probably intended. I don't know anyone who talks formally among family, least of all anyone from Alabama or Florida. That definitely detracted from the book, as far as I was concerned.

The Heart Mender, however, is a beautiful story with a relatively happy ending which doesn't often happen in real life, and I recommend reading this book just for that. You will finish the book with a smile on your face, even if you are a cynic like myself.

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