Thursday, March 3, 2011

‘Restless Heart’ by Wynonna Judd with LuAnn McLane – Book Review

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I often choose to read books based on my interest in the subject matter or the author. I am a big Wynonna Judd fan, so when I learned she had written a novel about an aspiring country music singer, I knew that was a book I wanted to read to add to my reading list.

Here is the synopsis of 'Restless Heart':

“Are you ready, Destiny Hart? Great name, by the way. You even sound like a star.”
Not surprising to anyone who knows her, Destiny Hart’s career starts with a dare. And she isn’t someone who backs down from a challenge. Destiny is the determined elder daughter of an unyielding retired air force colonel in an on-the-move military family. She and her younger sister, Grace, have never understood the concept of roots. But Destiny holds on the one real constant she has ever known: a talent for singing and a passion for performing.
No matter how big the dreams are for Destiny, she’s determined to live up to her name and follow her fate. She has the cool, sexy look. She has the hard-driving ambition. All she needs is a break to make it happen. When it comes, she grabs it – and she’s taking it on the road. Destiny Hart is going to be a star.
But with the exhilarating rush of success comes a price and a battle to recapture the traditions that were her foundation. Struggling to reconnect with the things that matter most, Destiny is putting an unexpected new spin on her own career – one that will redirect her life in ways she never imagines.
Written with a genuine heart and an experienced voice, Wynonna Judd’s debut novel is a celebration of family and friends, of love and loss, of success and surrender, and of one woman’s inspiring path of self-discovery.

Here are the biographies of these authors:

Wynonna Judd came into prominence as part of the legendary mother-daughter duo, The Judds, selling more than twenty million worldwide and winning more than sixty industry awards, including five Grammys, nine Country Music Association Awards, and eight Billboard Music Awards. As a solo artist, Wynonna has gone on to sell more than ten million albums, received the coveted Female Vocalist of the Year Awards from the Academy of Country Music, became a New York Times bestselling author of her memoir, Coming Home to Myself, and came to be recognized as a compassionate humanitarian. Born in Ashland, Kentucky, Wynonna now lives on a hundred-year-old farm outside Nashville with her children, cats, dogs, buffalo, and deer. Restless Heart is her first novel.

LuAnn McLane writes southern bent romantic comedy for NAL and is currently penning her third novel in her Cricket Creek book series. Her books have appeared on best selling lists including Barnes and Noble, Rhapsody and Doubleday Book clubs. She recently collaborated with country superstar Wynonna Judd with Restless Heart. She lives in Florence, Kentucky and when she isn't writing... she enjoys family, friends, cooking, reading, music, travel and University of Kentucky basketball.

I have been a huge fan of Wynonna’s music since her days performing with her mom, Naomi, as The Judds; I was fortunate enough to finally see her in concert in December, 2009 (you can read my thoughts here; it’s one of my first blog posts!). It was one of the most worshipful concerts I’ve ever attended!
Here is Wynonna singing – with great conviction – one of my favorite songs, ‘I Want to Know What Love Is,’ originally recorded by Foreigner, another favorite:

This book deals with a young woman who aspires to make it in the country music industry – a subject Wynonna knows whereof she speaks (or writes, in this case!).

Destiny’s love of music goes way back; it is also pretty clear her talent was inherited:

She’d been raised on bluegrass, gospel, and classic country; music was one of the few things in her childhood that had been consistent. Her mother sang to her and Grace every night, a lovely lilting quality to her voice that carried Destiny through many a rough patch.
She’d been belting out her favorite songs along with the radio since childhood and taught herself how to play the guitar along the way. Gradually, she’d learned to sing in front of others – in the church choir and at barn dances back and Grandma and Grandpappy’s farm. (p. 5)

Grace and Destiny were close sisters:

Close enough in age to be peers, Destiny and Grace had been the best of friends throughout their childhood. In a family constantly on the move, all they’d really had was each other. They shared everything from bedrooms to worry about their father whenever he was on active duty to a longing to settle down in one place and never have to move again.
Oddly enough, when that finally happened, the sisters drifted apart. Over the past four years that Grace had been in college and Destiny in Nashville, they’d seen each other only on rare occasions when they both happened to make it back home for the same holiday. Even then, Destiny never stuck around more than a night or two – not because she had anything urgent to rush back to, but because she wanted her family to think she did. (p. 15)

Destiny’s good friend from high school, Seth Caldwell, visited her workplace in Nashville. He was still a good looking man:

At a glance, she concluded that he somehow looked exactly the same, right down to the familiar red baseball cap with a scripted letter W. Then she allowed herself to take in his rugged features at close range and saw that while his warm brown eyes and easy grin remained just as she remembered, Seth had matured from a cute high school boy to a hard-bodied man. His once shaggy brown hair that had given his mother fits was neatly trimmed close to his head from what she could see beneath the cap. Recalling how proud he’d been of the appearance of scraggly facial hair, she noted that Seth’s jaw was now shaded with a five-o’clock shadow, giving him a dangerously sexy edge that made her heart race. (p. 23)

We also are given a look at the early days of Destiny’s and Grace’s parents, John and Sara:

The next time they connected, though, it was for good. John was failing English and needed the credit to graduate; the teacher asked Sara, her prize pupil, to tutor him. It didn’t take long to discover that beneath John’s surly attitude was a sharp brain.
Abandoned by his mother and raised by his mad-at-the-world father, John was a classic chip-on-his-shoulder underachiever. They’d been such opposites, she and John – Sara’s free-spirited love of poetry, music, and literature in sharp contrast with John’s hard-edged lifestyle.
And yet they fell badly in love.
When his trouble-making ways landed him in hot water one too many times, John’s father finally kicked him out of the house. Out of nowhere, in a last-ditch effort to change his life and make something of himself – mostly for Sara’s sake – he’d signed up for the air force. To everyone’s surprise – particularly his own – he’d embraced the military lifestyle. It instilled discipline, gave him direction and a sense of pride in himself and his country. He shed his bad-boy ways and a year later, they were married. (pp. 40-41)

The main conflict in this book is the different directions the lives of Destiny and Seth were taking, and whether or not that conflict would be resolved. Sara had her own opinion on what Destiny should do:

Sara’s hope for Seth and Destiny faded as she realized that their lives had taken them in two very different directions. She’d doubted Destiny was going to give up her dreams – and to her surprise, Sara realized she didn’t want her to.
Compromise and understanding were the keys to any relationship. But she knew from personal experience that changing who you are for the sake of your spouse chipped away at your very soul.
She wouldn’t wish that on Destiny. Not even for the sake of finding true love. (pp. 62-63)

Destiny seemed to be destined for stardom in country music. She learned what it takes to break through. She learned the ropes from record company owner Nick Novell, and learned how many people were involved in the success of one artist. It was interesting to see what happens behind the scenes in building the career of a new artist:

“We’re going to get you in the studio as soon as possible, and once we have a couple songs in the can, we’ll get our other departments involved – promotion, creative, marketing…”
“What do they do exactly?”
“They all weigh in with their two cents, basically. The creative team works on your brand image – head shots, video shoots, album packaging. They get to know you and figure out what your style is – or should be.”
Should be?
As determined as she was to rise to the top, Destiny wasn’t crazy about that terminology – or the idea of changing herself to fit someone else’s image.
“The promotions guys are responsible for getting your songs on the radio. They’re the ones who are in tune with what’s working and not working on radio across the country, so basically, they have a lot of say in what you record.”
She nodded. Her head was spinning.
“The marketing team is responsible for marketing the album launch, and the sales team sells it into retail.” (p. 97)

Seth had had some dreams for his own life, but he realized his dream was not necessarily his destiny:

He’d made that decision years ago, when he failed to get drafted into the minor leagues the first time out. Rather than feeling disappointed, he found that he was relieved. He loved baseball, but not the prospect of life on the road.
Accepting that it wasn’t meant to be, he knew that God had other plans for him; that he was meant to mold and influence young minds and spirits in a world sorely lacking in leadership. (p. 107)

Destiny was mentored by a legend in country music, Tammy Turner. Tammy gave Destiny some enlightening advice:

Tammy stood up and turned back to Destiny. “I want you to remember that it’s a cutthroat business, darlin’. The higher your star shoots, the more likely that you can count your friends on one hand. But if you ever need advice from someone who’s probably been there, done that, then you know where to come.”
Touched, Destiny smiled – then closed her eyes and coughed as her own stylist aimed a can of hairspray at her and pulled the trigger.
When Destiny opened her eyes, Tammy had vanished, but her words lingered, more like a warning than an inspiration. (pp. 216-217)

Despite being a Detroiter/Metro Detroiter (aka city slicker), I have always enjoyed country music, bluegrass, etc… And, as noted, I have always loved Wynonna’s talent. I really enjoyed reading this book. Although it is a little outside of my normal reading list (i.e., it is not a ‘Christian’ book), I am glad to have read it. The main characters do not always follow Christian principles, but they do end up making the right choices based on biblical principles in the end. I look forward to reading Wynonna’s first book – a memoir – ‘Coming Home to Myself.’ I found this book to have a lot of heart and a lot of soul – just like the main author herself!

You can order this book here.

This book was published by New American Library and provided by them for review purposes.


Loren said...

Wow.... I had no idea Wynonna had written a novel. Sounds really good :) Thanks for sharing!

Great review

Andrea Schultz said...

I was excited to find out myself, Loren! You're welcome, Loren - and thanks for the kind words!

Linda said...

Wow! Wynnona is one of my faves also. This will be an interesting read. Thanks for bringing it to our attention

Andrea Schultz said...

You're welcome, Linda! I hope you will order from Amazon through one of my links if you decide to purchase! This poor blogger will appreciate it! : )

LuAnn McLane said...

What a great review... you captured the heart of the book perfectly. I am such a big fan of Wynonna and was honored to be part of the project. I was star struck but she immediately made me laugh and put me at ease! She is an inspiration! I also saw her in concert and she connected with the audience in a way I had never seen an artist do. I look forward to seeing her with the Cincinnati Pops this fall.

Andrea Schultz said...

Hi LuAnn -
Thanks for stopping by & giving us a peek at your interactions with Wy! What a thrill that must have been! I know you will enjoy the concert. I look forward to seeing her again! I was going to see her at a Saturn Homecoming Event in Spring Hill TN in 1994. Unfortunately, her concert was rained out. The area where she was supposed to perform was flooded; we took to calling it Lake Wynonna! It was worth the wait to finally see her in 2009. Hope I don't have to wait another 15 years to see her again!

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize Wynonna had written an book! And sounds like a very good read too! I'm a fan of hers that would make the book even more interesting! Thanks for offering it!
Blessings......Joy Hannabass

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