Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review: My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren


My Foolish Heart (A Deep Haven Novel)
By: Susan May Warren
Publisher: Tyndale
ISBN: 978-1-4143-3482-0

About the book:

When it comes to love, sometimes you have to be a little foolish.

Unknown to her quaint town of Deep Haven, Isadora Presley is the star host of My Foolish Heart, a popular syndicated talk radio show. From her home studio, she gives listeners advice on romance...even though she's never had a date.

It's not that she doesn't want to, but since a tragic accident took her mother's life, pank attacks have trapped her inside her small neighborhood. And though she always reminds listeners that their perfect love could be right next door, it can't possibly be true for her. Especially when a new neighbor moves in. Sure, he's handsome, but with his unruly dog and Neanderthal manners, Caleb Knight is the last man she'd ever fall for.

To Issy, love isn't worth the risk. Until she starts to have feelings for a caller - a man she's never even met but finds honest, charming, and sensitive.

A man she doesn't realize lives right next door.

Review:

Following the horrific accident that stole her mother’s life and her father’s mobility, Isadora Presley has remained veritably sequestered in her home, a captive to the crippling fears and panic attacks that have defined her life since that fateful night. Her closest friend, Lucy, serves as her lifeline to the outside world and the keeper of her biggest secret – she’s the hostess of the syndicated talk radio show My Foolish Heart, where she doles out advice to the lovelorn, despite the fact that she’s never had a date. Issy’s “perfect 10” date requirements were designed to shield her heart after witnessing Lucy’s high school heartbreak over Seb, the all-star quarterback, and now the list keeps her safe in her home, sure no one is worth the risk of making herself emotionally vulnerable. As Miss Foolish Heart, Issy may remind her listeners that their perfect love could be “right next door,” but deep in her heart she’s convinced no man would want to deal with her emotional baggage – least of all new neighbor whose arresting blue eyes intrigue her in spite of the fact that he could clearly never meet her list’s requirements.

Caleb Knight came to Deep Haven hoping for a fresh start as the new high school football coach. After losing a leg in Iraq, he only wants the chance that he can make a difference and prove God didn’t save his life in vain. Rebuilding the football team – shattered after Coach Presley’s accident – might be the perfect chance, if he can hide his disability until he can prove equal to the job on merit alone. The more he learns about the reclusive Isadora, the more he’d like to know her better – and on a whim he calls My Foolish Heart for advice. Miss Foolish Heart and BoyNextDoor instantly connect, and through their anonymous rapport Caleb and Issy find the courage to risk their hearts. But when the truth is revealed, Caleb and Issy must find the courage to embrace the love of a Father whose overwhelming gift of love and grace is the only thing that can set them free to embrace a future together beyond their wildest dreams.

Susan May Warren consistently pens some of the best, steal-your-breath-they’re-so fabulous romances in the business. I loved the novelty of a talk radio show as the impetus to bring Caleb and Isadora out of their self-set limitations, similar to the role e-mail played in the film You’ve Got Mail. The power of a sympathetic voice, and the freedom to be found in open, honest conversation unencumbered by face-to-face pressure was the perfect vehicle to connect two broken souls weighed down by physical and spiritual scars. And, in a classic romance fangirl moment, I was thrilled to see the inclusion of Jane Eyre references to each of the romances in the novel. Much like Rochester and Jane, Issy and Caleb and Lucy and Seb each long to fully known and loved – but in order for that to happen, each individual must come to the realization that whomever the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36) – and a regret, a mistake, a scar, doesn’t by definition rob you of your future unless you allow it to do so. Warren excels at redemption stories, and the journeys in My Foolish Heart are perhaps her most powerful illustrations of God’s grace to date, reminding readers that it’s how we respond to the blows that knock the wind from our sails that matters, and whether or not we choose to let God redeem those wounds that would strip us of hope if we let them.

While I cannot fathom the specific pain of Issy’s circumstances, in many ways she is my emotional twin. If I were to name the biggest thing I battle, the one thing that will try to take me out over and over, that would be fear. It doesn’t have to be rational, it doesn’t have to make sense, but in the middle of the fight, it’s real – through Issy’s character Warren reveals an authentic, soul-deep understanding of the stranglehold fears can take on the lives of believers. Issy’s reactions and thought processes are spot-on, and I applaud Warren for handling such a sensitive, emotionally loaded subject with grace and understanding. I also loved her bravery in addressing the cost of premarital sex through Lucy and Seb’s story. While actions have consequences, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of letting a mistake or regret define one’s life, and through their story Warren provides a gorgeous example of God’s redemptive power and the beauty of second chances. From cover to cover, My Foolish Heart is replete with Warren’s trademarks of relatable, achingly real characters, swoon-worthy heroes, and authentic, rubber-meets-the-road faith. It’s a prime example of why I love Warren’s books so much. Just when I think she can’t possibly get any better, and just when I least expect it, she delivers another heart-stopping romance, laced with the life-changing power of God’s grace – My Foolish Heart may just be my favorite Warren novel yet.

***
Thanks to Litfuse for the review opportunity.

5 comments:

Christy said...

You summed up this book so perfectly, it makes me want to pull down my review and just refer people to yours! :o)

I admit, I was a little taken aback by the topic of premarital sex, but it's a struggle for some people, even Christians. I applaud her for including that in the story.

Ruth said...

@Christy - You are too sweet! :) I've gotta head over to your blog to read your take on MFH now.

I agree, one of the things I love most about SMW's books is the transparency and honesty in the lives of her characters, warts and all as the saying goes. :)

Lori Benton said...

This is moving to the top of my TBR pile. :)

Renee Ann said...

Beautiful review! Of all the books I've read in the past months, this simple story really stole my heart. I have battled fear in the past and definitely can relate to you and Issy. Glad I stopped in to read this . . . And, BTW, I re-watched the Sherlock Holmes series with Daniel Cumberbatch recently and thought of your reviews!

Ruth said...

@Lori - YAY! :) Can't wait to hear what you think!

@Renee Ann - Thank you! And yay for Sherlock re-watches... :)