Leena Coughlin is simply eye-candy to her husband Steven’s sky-rocketing career. Steven may be a brilliant cardiac surgeon, but the self-absorbed man is more focused on other people’s hearts—and his own pleasure—than on the emotional heart of his family. He’s a God-like man, after all, saving lives every day. And a man like him has needs. More than Leena can provide.
To fend off the growing loneliness of her marriage, Leena strikes up a relationship with a stranger, Michael Casspi, through a letters-to-prisoners program. Michael was also once a cardiac surgeon. He claimed that assisting his dying wife with suicide was an act of mercy. The state called it murder. Can a man imprisoned behind bars fill Leena’s emotional void?
Focused on their own strained relationship, neither Steven nor Leena has noticed the deteriorating mental health of their college-aged daughter, Joy.
Two men. One woman. And a fragile girl teetering on the knife-edge of depression. But when Michael is unexpectedly released from prison, the precarious balance of all their lives will be dramatically altered forever.
The story is told in four first-person points of view: Leena, Steven, Michael, and Joy. Leena and Steven’s marriage is far from perfect, which is obvious right away from both POVs. The fact that Leena is writing to Michael out of loneliness as he languishes in prison is not a surprise. The opening chapter is Michael’s and it starts with a bang, hooking me almost instantly. As the story unfolds, we find out more about Steven’s extramarital behavior. He seems to love his wife and daughter, though he never has time for them. At least he sees his wife in bed most nights, where he grabs a quickie before going to sleep. But he barely sees his daughter and hasn’t for years. Steven is a famous cardio-thoracic surgeon, in high demand. He believes the material things he provides for his family should be enough. It’s not enough for him, though, because he has a rather active sex life with women who are not his wife. He claims it’s because he needs to blow of steam and doesn’t want to bring his hospital life home, which he views as a safe harbor. But in reality, he likes to do what he considers dirty and depraved things he believes his wife is too good for.
Leena is the long-suffering wife who we all know deserves better. She clearly loves her husband and adores her daughter, yet she’s completely oblivious to everything going on around her. She has no idea her daughter is suffering form mental illness that pushes her to the brink of suicide, nor that her husband has been unfaithful for probably most of their marriage. Shea assumes because he comes home to bang in her in the night, he’s clearly not getting anything on the side.
So much of the story I found problematic, but the author kept me turning the pages, proving she’s an outstanding storyteller. The book could have been a stronger story for me if the author had gotten certain details correct. For instance, Steven, a renowned surgeon, and even Michael for that matter, keep referring to conjoined twins as Siamese twins. That’s not a medical term at all and is actually quite offensive. I cringed every time it was mentioned, which was a lot. There was also a continuity error that yanked me out of the story when Leena is driving her beloved Karmann Ghia through the streets of San Francisco, only to end up in her black Mercedes, which blends in, without ever going home and swapping out cars. There is nothing about a Karmann Ghia that blends in, so this was jarring. And finally, the biggest problem I had was Joy’s mental illness. Throughout the book, everyone, including Joy, blames her father’s lack of presence in her life as the cause of her depression. But this does a disservice to anyone who suffers from mental illness. It is not caused by someone else. The blame game is very dangerous and hurtful, especially to anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide. The thought that if they’d only done more, been more present, etc., they could have prevented it, is a terrible message to send.
The plot centers around Michael’s release from prison, his future beyond his time behind bars, and the relationships between all four main characters. There’s a lot of drama and even more at stake, and the author does a good job of keeping the pacing spot on. As I said, I was riveted to the story and wanted, or rather needed, to find out what happened next, regardless of my issues.
The characters were all well-developed and deeply flawed. We get deep into each of their points of view, even Steven’s. While it was good to understand what drives a man who has everything to throw it all away for cheap thrills, it didn’t really do much to make me like him, but I think that was never the point. it was an interesting twist I wasn’t expecting, though.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About A HEART LIFE
1. San Francisco. I loved that my favorite city in the world was the backdrop for these characters. The story is as much a love letter to the City by the Bay as it is anything else.
2. Joy. She was my favorite character. Maybe because I have a daughter the same age or maybe because I could see a lot of my nineteen-year-old sister in her, but she was probably the only truly innocent person in the story.
3. Cliffhangers. Each chapter ended strongly, forcing me to read on. I love when an author can do that.
4. Twists. There were only a few twists that really caught me by surprise, but those are always a treat and I enjoyed them immensely.
5. Storytelling. The author knows how to weave a tale that kept me turning the pages.
A fun, fast read with deeply drawn characters.
I was provided by a copy of the book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: A HEART LIFE
Author: Patricia Yager Delagrange
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release Date: November 26, 2020
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR
About the Author
Fascinated by broken-hearted couples and atypical families, Patricia writes women’s fiction, weaving engaging tales of men and women who create cohesive families where love reigns supreme. She sprinkles her books with intriguing characters who struggle to find balance in life. Whether an unwed teenager, desperate widow, abandoned father, disconnected sisters, or a troubled couple, her characters form relationships impacted by their desire to create a family.
Patricia lives with her husband and two children on the island of Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco, along with three chocolate labs and a rescue terrier mix. When she’s not writing or spending time with her family, Patricia enjoys riding her Friesian horse Maximus, who lives in the Oakland hills with a million dollar view.