Have you ever stumbled onto a situation that wasn’t part of your plan, and had to make the choice of whether to venture off course risking everything, or stick with your original path and always wonder what could have been?  This is the case in Amy Hatvany’s Heart Like Mine, where the reader is introduced to Grace, Ava and Kelli in a trio of alternating narrations, and taken on a journey which will forever change all of their lives.  At times, heartbreaking, Heart Like Mine is the kind of book that touches your heart in ways that you wouldn’t think possible.  It makes you think about your own choices in life and whether they were the right ones for you.

Grace is a woman who works with a foundation that helps battered women make new lives for themselves; it was a career that she stumbled upon while doing volunteer work and she loves it.  But like many of us, Grace had a plan for her life, which didn’t include kids, which is why when she began dating Victor – a divorcé with two kids – she hesitated, but not for long.  For the most part, Victor’s kids lived with their mother, Kelli, spending every other weekend with him, something that Grace felt that she could deal with.  She and Victor move in together, get engaged, and for a brief moment everything is perfect.  Less than a week after their engagement, the unthinkable happens: Kelli dies.  Her death leaves Victor and the kids distraught as they try to cope with what happened, and Grace ultimately needs to choose.  Does she love Victor enough to stay with him and his kids and be able to help them in their time of need, or does she need to let go?

Ava is Victor and Kelli’s thirteen year old daughter who, ever since her dad had left a few years back, has been taking care of her unstable mom and helping with household chores that a girl of her age shouldn’t have to do.  She tolerates Grace, but at the same time wishes that her parents would get back together.  When she finds out that Kelli is dead, Ava’s world is crushed.  She has to permanently move out of the only home she’s ever known, and she resents Grace because she is alive whereas her mother is not.  But, the hardest thing of all is that everything that Kelli had told Ava about her past starts unraveling, and slowly Ava learns the truth: Kelli was not who she thought she was.  Ultimately, Ava needs to decide if she can let go of the mom she thought she had and accept Kelli for who she actually was.  She also needs to figure out if she can let go enough of Kelli to let Grace in, or be the catalyst to drive her away.

Kelli, is the mother to Ava and Max, and ex-wife to Victor.  Despite problems that she and Victor had, and despite the fact that they haven’t been together for the past few years, she still held onto hope that he would come back to her…until Victor told her of his engagement to Grace.  Kelli was devastated by the news, yes, but was it enough to put her over the edge?  Since Kelli dies not to long after, most of her character is narrated from her adolescence up until the time of her death.  As we travel with Kelli along her short journey, things from her past emerge and shed light on her as an adult and why she behaved the way that she did – the most shocking of which Kelli didn’t even see coming.  She always knew that she had been abandoned by the people who were supposed to love her the most, but she finds out that there is a possibility that they may have betrayed her as well.

If you were put into a similar situation, how would you react?  Would you try to do the right thing even if it was not in your plan?  Take Grace, she had just started getting used to the idea that she was going to be a part-time step mom, only to be thrown completely into parenting…and not only that, parenting kids – Ava specifically – who made it especially difficult for her to do so.  Ava is horrible to Grace, stealing from her, screaming at her, lying to Victor, and at least once or twice telling Grace that she hated her.  It’s not that Grace was replacing Kelli, because that is not what Grace wanted at all, but at the same time you can kind of understand where Ava is coming from as well.  Her plan was not to tragically lose her mom and be raised by someone else, and because she is only thirteen her behavior is partially excused.  Although she does not come across as the most sympathetic character at times, losing a parent isn’t easy, and that in turn makes you feel for her.  All Kelli ever wanted out of life was to be loved by someone.  She was estranged from her parents, divorced from her husband, and only had one real friend – and the one thing that she loved the most, the thing that she didn’t know existed although always longed for, could have kept her from going over the edge of despair and possibly have been her hold in the realm of happiness.

Heart Like Mine shows the different types of love that we can experience in our lives, the ones that have always been with us, the ones that we’ve always wanted, and the ones that we didn’t know existed but that ultimately were found to be essential us.  It shows us that life is more precious than we realize, and at any second someone that we deeply care about can be taken away from us, but it also hopefully helps people who find themselves in similar situations (Grace) know that they are not alone, and that things will get better over time.  You can feel the loss of someone deeply, but in order for anyone to keep on living, you have to move on to a point.  Perhaps if Kelli had been able to do that she would have lived a longer and happier life.  This was my first time reading Hatvany’s writing.  I think that she did a wonderful job and I would not hesitate to pick up another one.

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