Monday, 26 July 2010

Book Review: Second Hand Heart by Catherine Ryan Hyde.


Product details:
Publisher: Black Swan.
Paperback, 464 pages.
Release date: September 16th 2010.
Ages: Adult Fiction.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.


Vida is 19 and has never had much of a life. Struggling along with a life-threatening heart condition, her whole life has been one long preparation for death. But suddenly she is presented with a donor heart, and just in time. Now she gets to do something she never imagined she'd have to do: live.

Richard is a 36-year-old man who’s just lost his beloved wife, Lorrie, in a car accident. Still in shock and not even having begun the process of grieving, he is invited to the hospital to meet the young woman who received his wife’s donor heart.

Vida takes one look at Richard and feels she’s loved him all her life. And tells him so. Richard assumes she’s just a foolish young girl. And maybe she is. Or maybe there’s truth behind the theory of cellular memory, and maybe it really is possible for a heart to remember, at least for a time, on its own.

This is the first book I’ve read by Catherine Ryan Hyde, so I was drawn to it, not out of any knowledge of her previous books, but due to the fact it seemed to me that it would appeal to me as a fan of Jodi Picoult.  While this is similar in theme to Picoult’s books and will undoubtedly appeal to those who like her books, it lacks the emotional punch that Picoult packs.  Her books have often left me in tears, and I was expecting this one to do the same.  Instead, I consider this one to be a light summer read, despite the  serious subject matter, and it didn’t really leave a lasting impression on me. The plot is pretty straightforward, and there are no major surprises here.  It’s definitely a book for the garden or the beach, when you don’t want to read anything too taxing.  It’s not one that’s going to stay on your mind long after you’ve read it, nor is it a book that’s going to keep you reading late into the night.

The story here revolves around the cellular memory of a heart transplant recipient, Vida, and thirty-something  Richard, who has lost his wife in a car crash.  Vida is the recipient of Richard’s wife’s heart, and from the moment she sees Richard, Vida loves him, insisting that she retains some of his wife’s memories, the ones she held dearest in her heart.  Cellular memory is not a topic that I’m all that familiar with, and although it was interesting and well-researched, the subject matter didn’t totally engage me.

The story here is told in journal format, which I liked at the start, as it enabled me to get to know Vida pretty well very soon on.  After a while though, the style seemed overly simplified for this book. Vida’s diary entries often bordered on the repetitive and she had a tendency to lose her train of thought right in the middle of an entry, which got distracting after a while.  Also, while Vida is ultimately a likeable character, I did question her motivations towards the middle of the book, and she began to annoy me quite a lot.  She is very childlike in her persistence towards Richard - frequently turning up at his house when he tells her not to.  I realised by the end of the book that she was doing everything she could to help him come to terms with his loss, but in parts, she is portrayed as being quite childlike and aggressive.  She wasn’t a character I could really connect with, nor was the grieving Richard.

For the most part, the story is about love and loss - coming to terms with loss and learning to live again.  For Vida, the book is a voyage of self-discovery. At age nineteen she hasn’t been able to live any sort of life. She has been ill from birth, has an over-protective mother and her only friend is a ninety year old concentration camp survivor. With her new heart she is finally able to live, not just survive.  She can finally go out into the world and find herself.  Vida’s road trip and coming of age was actually my favourite part of the book, and it was during these chapters that I started to like her again, and realise that her intentions were ultimately good.  With Vida’s help, Richard is able to begin to move on with his life, and for all it’s themes of death, loss and grief, the book actually ends on a positive note of restoration, rebirth and rejuvenation.

7 comments :

  1. After reading the summary, I was positive this book was going to be emotional and powerful! I'm surprised to hear it isn't. Sounds like it's still worth a read, though!

    Excellent review!

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  2. This sounds really intersting - thanks for the review :D

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  3. Yeah, it's definitely an interesting read - maybe just not quite what I was expecting!

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  4. I really want to read it. I'm surprised isn't emotional, but it would be an interesting reading.

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  5. It definitely looks like a Jodi Picoult from the cover and description. I got the same impression you did.

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  6. this sounds really nice and I want to read it. Great review :)

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  7. this sounds like a complicated, rich subject and totally compelling if it is handled well. the cover is perfect. i always love your reviews!

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