Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review of "Playing by Heart"

Rating: 5 Stars

Review: Anne Mateer's "Playing by Heart" is a novel that tugged at my heart strings.  I was reminded that an emotionally driven plot can be as captivating as action and adventure.  Mateer led me to care about the characters in the early chapters; and by the end of the novel, I was emotionally invested in the outcome.  What struck me about the plot was the realism of the scenarios shaping the lives of each character.  Lula and Chet were endearing leads who faced real-life decisions and problems. Their families each had their own difficulties that became integral notes in the overall song of the story.  By the end of "Playing by Heart," every character made an impact on me.  My connection to Lulu and Chet was one of the strongest I've had to two protagonists.  The alternating first person perspectives allowed me to emphasize and understand their emotions and actions.  I felt a camaraderie with Lulu who was striving to find her place and purpose in life.  The details of Chet's life gripped my heart. His dedication to his mother and basketball team were admirable. Both Chet and Lulu grew significantly over the course of the book, and their love story was so beautifully portrayed as a product of their growth.  I was completely charmed by them and their romance.

The setting on America's homefront during World War I offered a different perspective on the war's impact.  Chet's decision not to enlist in the army gave insight to the personal and public doubts that men in his position would have faced.  His struggles with guilt, uncertainty, and his mother's bitterness created raw emotions that transcended the pages.

I was concerned initially that the basketball focus would be dull for someone who isn't a basketball fan. Mateer was light on the technical details of the sport, while providing enough detail to bring the games to life.  I was surprised to find myself excited by the game scenes, anxiously awaiting the outcome.  Anne Mateer succeeded once again in holding my interest with a meaningful story full of heart. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. 

Summary from Bethany House: Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But then a shocking phone call from her sister, Jewel, changes everything.

With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister, but the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Lula doesn't even consider those real subjects!

Determined to prove herself, Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys' coach, Chet, to learn the newfangled game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She's returning to college and her scholarship as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet.

However, the more time she spends around Jewel's family, the girls' basketball team, music classes, and Chet, the more Lula comes to realize what she's given up in her single-minded pursuit of degree after degree. God is working on her heart, and her future is starting to look a lot different than she'd expected.

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