Saturday, June 11, 2011

‘My Foolish Heart: A Deep Haven Novel’ by Susan May Warren – Book Review

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One of my favorite authors since I have been reviewing books is Susan May Warren. I have never been disappointed in any of the many novels of hers that I have read. Her latest, ‘My Foolish Heart’ can be added to that satisfaction pile!

Here is the synopsis of this novel:

When it comes to love, sometimes you have to be a little foolish. Unknown to her quaint town of Deep Haven, Isadora Presley spends her nights as Miss Foolish Heart, the star host of a syndicated talk radio show. Millions tune in to hear her advice on dating and falling in love, unaware that she’s never really done either. Issy’s ratings soar when it seems she’s falling in love on-air with a caller. A caller she doesn’t realize lives right next door.

Caleb Knight served a tour of duty in Iraq and paid a steep price. The last thing he wants is pity, so he hides his disability and moves to Deep Haven to land his dream job as the high school football coach. When his beautiful neighbor catches his eye, in a moment of desperation he seeks advice from My Foolish Heart, the show that airs before his favorite sports broadcast. 

Before he knows it, Caleb finds himself drawn to the host—and more confused than ever. Is his perfect love the woman on the radio . . . or the one next door?

Here is the biography of this author:

Susan May Warren is the RITA Award-winning, best-selling author of more than thirty novels, many of which have won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, the ACFW Book of the Year award, the Rita Award, and four books have been Christy finalists. Her novels have compelling plots and unforgettable characters that have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. Susan holds a BA in mass communications from the University of Minnesota. After serving as a missionary for eight years in Russia with her family, Susan returned home to a small town on Minnesota’s beautiful Lake Superior shore where she, her four children, and her husband are active in their local church. She now writes full-time and cheers on her two sons in football and her daughter in local theater productions (and desperately missing her college-age son!) as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking and canoeing.

Susan's larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women’s events and retreats speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook From the Inside-Out: Discover, Create and Publish the Novel in You! She is also the founder of the My Book Therapy website, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice.

One of my favorite aspects of Susan’s writing is the deep faith exhibited by most of her characters. Even if they have questions about their faith, they usually come back to the Lord. Many of the books that are considered to be ‘Christian’ don’t get around to bringing up the subject until deep into the storyline, and then it is very thin or peripheral. That is not what I have found in Ms. Warren’s work. And I appreciate that! They are not overly preachy; but they all exalt and lift up the Lord!

Being a fellow Midwesterner who is closer to the Canadian border than the Mexican border, I could really relate to the lifestyle of these characters, which are in Northern Minnesota. I am also familiar with the intense rivalry that is prevalent up there. Here is a fun exchange between newcomer Caleb Knight and Pastor Dan:

        ….”I grew up in the church.”
        “Where was that, Caleb?”…
“Little town on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin called Preston. It’s a farming community. My father ran a hardware store.”
“So were you a Packers or Vikings fan?” Dan asked.
“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up,” Caleb said, quoting Vince Lombardi, the Green Bay Packers’ legendary coach.
Dan shook his head. “Well, we’re going to have to keep it friendly when the Packers play the Vikings.” (p. 81)

Football plays a really important role in this novel, needless to say! Fortunately, I am a football fan, so that enhanced my enjoyment of this book. I loved the comparison Caleb makes between football and life:
“I’m serious. Life is football. It’s pushing ahead, and maybe you make yardage or maybe you don’t, but you get knocked down all the same. And right then, you have the choice to get back up. If you have enough people cheering for you, and enough heart, you push to your feet and get back in the huddle and go another round. Life is football.”
“Sometimes, though, players get hit so hard they’re slow to get up. And then they’re afraid of getting hit again. Afraid of really throwing themselves into the game.”
….”What do you tell these players, coach?”…
“I tell them to shake it off. And then I tell them to get out there and give it back. Don’t let them beat you. You’ll never feel good if you don’t play with all your heart.” (p. 200)  

Being a big strong football player, Caleb dealt with an issue that all of us can struggle with – pride. Pastor Dan imparts some Godly wisdom to his friend:

        “I have accepted grace--”
“But have you let Jesus wash your feet here? Or is your pride saying, ‘God, You’ve done enough. Don’t wash me’?”
Caleb drew in a breath. “It just seems weak. I can’t go through life constantly needing God.”
“Why not? That’s the point, I think. God says, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Dan turned the heat down. “God is glorified not in your strengths and not in your gratefulness, but in your weaknesses and in your trust in His future grace. In your faith that God didn’t let you down in the past…and He’s not going to let you down in the future.” (p. 236)

I was touched by the heart of the author that was shared at the back of the book in ‘A Note from the Author’:
In every book I look for that profound moment from the Lord to show me how He wants to change me through the writing of it. That moment came when I wrote, God loved most foolishly. He came into the dark world to rescue people who might never love Him back. I stared at that line for so long I almost deleted it. It felt blasphemous. God is not foolish. But He is love. Big, overwhelming, incongruous love that looks foolish. A love that, even now, doesn’t seem wise. I mean, really, has He taken a look at the people He loves recently? What a mess they are! (And I’m not looking at anyone but myself when I say that!)
But see, that’s the amazing part. His love is perfect. Not messy. Not uneven. Consistent. Overwhelming. Freeing.
And he offers it to us, no strings attached.
May you have a foolish heart for Christ, just as He has for you. (p. 357)
I have reviewed several of Ms. Warren’s novels on my blog: Double Trouble (you can read my review here), Licensed for Trouble (you can read my review here) Sons of Thunder (you can read my review here), and Nightingale (you can read my review here). Ms. Warren is a prolific and talented writer. She can write expertly and well in many different genres – historical fiction, comical suspense, etc… This book falls into the category of Romance, and she handles this genre very well also. She is one of the most talented writers that I have read, and I know that whenever a book from her computer crosses my path, I will be entertained and enlightened. It has happened again with ‘My Foolish Heart’!

You can read an excerpt from this novel here.

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Tyndale Fiction. I am pleased to be part of the LitFuse book tour with these other bloggers.

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