Book Review: Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry

I’ve mentioned before that one of the best things about being a book reviewer is discovering new favourite authors.  I came across Chris Fabry last year when I reviewed his book Almost Heaven, which made it onto my Best Books of 2010 list.  This week, Fabry releases his newest novel, Not in the Heart, which I spent my Christmas vacation reading.

Truman Wiley is an out-of-work journalist and ghostwriter with a gambling addiction and an estranged family.  His son is in ICU on life support, waiting for a heart transplant, and his wife yearns for a better relationship with him but can’t stand his bad habits.  Truman is well aware of his follies, but is too stubborn to do anything about them—and unlike his wife, he doesn’t believe “problems can be solved with a leap of faith.”

Then his wife calls him up with a job offer: write the story of a man on death row.  Terrelle Conley’s wife is Ellen Wiley’s best friend and maintains that Terrelle is innocent.  However, his appeals have run out—execution day is a month away and he wants to tell his story before he dies.  The twist is that Terrelle wants to donate his heart to Truman’s son Aidan… if they can convince the governor to agree.

Truman takes the job because it’s work, not because he believes in Terrelle’s story.  To his surprise, his daughter Abigail appears, offering to be his right-hand man.  As she helps Truman research, she becomes convinced Terrelle is innocent.  Despite Truman’s cautions, Abigail will take any risk to find the information she wants—even if it means working job for the man she suspects is the real murderer.  As the clock ticks, time is running out both for Terrelle and for Aidan.

Not in the Heart is a completely different story than Almost Heaven, but just as good.  Fabry hooked me in the first pages and kept me reading to the end, wanting to find out how all the twisted strands of the story would come together—and if Truman would ever reconcile with his wife and face his gambling problems.  All of the characters were completely realistic and while I wanted to see Truman change, I also knew that such change is easier said than done.  The ending was one of those delightful endings that surprised me and yet still made sense within the story.

One thing I didn’t like about this novel was the point of view switches.  Most of the story is told from Truman’s POV—the reader is completely in his head, hearing his thoughts and seeing what he sees.  Then the novel switches to third-person POV to show what Ellen or Abigail are doing.  However, those scenes felt strange, pulling me out of the book.  To use a writer’s cliche, the Truman scenes were showing and the Ellen/Abigail scenes were telling (and in fiction, showing is usually better than telling).  Sometimes, the third-person scenes seemed to give information we’d already seen from Truman’s perspective.  At the end of the novel, I understood why the third-person perspective was necessary; however, I think the novel would have been stronger if Fabry had stayed in Truman’s head for the entire story and then written the epilogue from one of the other character’s perspective.

If you’re looking for a spell-binding, thought-provoking read, may I recommend Not in the Heart.  You can find a book trailer and the first chapter on Chris’ website.

I received this book for review in exchange for my honest opinion. This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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