Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Book Review

Heartwood by Belva Plain

This was one of those nearly-random choices from the library. It was available in large print and it was available at my local library when I needed something to read.

It looks girly. I don't usually go for the girly books, unless I'm specifically seeking out "fluff."

The description didn't make this sound like it was going to be in the "fluff" category.

But I had never heard of Belva Plain. I didn't know if it was going to be too girly. Time to try her out.

Then I found out that this is the last book she wrote before she died.

I still didn't know what to expect and I essentially had no expectations.

It's always better to start out that way.

"Expectations are premature disappointments."


The back cover of the book lead me to believe that this would be about a mother and the choices her adult children make. Well, it was sort of that, but I would state it more like, "A daughter struggles with preconceived notions across generations and inadvertently causes her mother to reexamine her own long-held beliefs." Or something more along those lines.

The upshot is that this book isn't really about the mother. It is about the daughter. Eighty percent of the book is spent retelling the daughter's adult life. It's a little disjointed. There are snippets of the brothers and their lives early on, which led me to think that the story would be more about all of the siblings. And ultimately their mother. Not so. This is really, mostly, just about the daughter.

If I had gotten that as the focus earlier on, I might not have been waiting for more of the story of the other family members. Waiting for more on certain characters left me feeling the story was disconnected and gave the impression of jumping around. Earlier focus on the daughter would have guided the story better.

Setting is provided to us at the bare minimum. Cities and towns, apartments and houses. All the descriptions were brief and perfunctory.

And as for plot, well, the choppiness didn't help much, but eventually it became clear. A curve ball came out of nowhere, but then the rest of the plot was rather simple to piece together. And in general, I like curve balls. This one, unfortunately, made it all too easy for things to come together in the plot. I'm not a fan of "all too easy".

The characters weren't drawn in much detail, outside of the daughter. But even the daughter was sketched mostly in terms of the traits of her mother and grandmother. There wasn't much depth beyond that. The mother was sketched only in broad strokes, which is unfortunate if this really was supposed to be a story about her.

All in all, this wasn't a waste of my time, but it didn't make me want to run out and get more of her other books. That's too bad. I was hoping to find another great author.

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