"I've found the only thing I can control is how well I tell the story and follow the truth... The truth will always lead you to a good place.” Truman Wiley used to report news stories around the world, but now the troubling headlines are his own. He’s out of work and out of touch with his family, but nothing keeps him awake at night more than his son’s failing heart. With hospital bills mounting faster than Truman can gamble his life savings, it seems there’s no way out... until his estranged wife throws him a lifeline—the chance to write the story of a death row inmate willing to donate his heart to Truman’s son. As the execution clock ticks, Truman uncovers disturbing evidence that may point to a different killer. For his son to live, must an innocent man die? As Truman’s investigation escalates, he’s forced to face his failures and make a choice that will change his life, his family, and the destinies of two men forever.
- Fascinating story and excellent narration by the author
I was excited to read and review Not in the Heart, because it is the 2013 Christy Award Winner in the Contemporary Standalone Category and I'd heard a lot of good things about it. The copy I read was an audiobook version, checked out and downloaded from my local library, so I'll be reviewing not only the text of the book itself but also the quality of the recording and its narration.
Not in the Heart tells the story of an out of work reporter who is estranged from his family, but is offered an opportunity to reconnect with them as well as earn some money toward paying off his mounting debts by writing the story of a death row inmate. That inmate, Terrell, is a convicted murderer who wants to donate his heart to Truman's ailing son. But as Truman researches the story, he uncovers evidence that points to Terrell's innocence. This raises a dilemma for Truman. If Terrell is proven innocent, Truman's son could die for lack of a heart transplant, but if Truman says nothing, an innocent man will be executed.
The complicated situations and difficult decisions explored in this book, make it a fascinating read as well as an excellent option for discussion by a book group.
The main character, Truman, is not an easy character to like. He is a selfish man with a gambling addiction, and he has made a number of bad choices that lead to hurt and problems for him and his family. And yet, I think the fact that the story is told in the first person from his point of view, helps the reader identify with him and feel for him, despite the negative character traits. I have to say I enjoyed Truman's dry and sarcastic sense of humor, which tends to keep things interesting from page one to the end.
What really resonated with me was the surprise twist at the end. I won't say what the twist is but I will say that I didn't see it coming at all, and I thought it fit the rest of the story perfectly. And yes, I cried at the end. I couldn't help it. In my opinion, Chris Fabry crafted the perfect ending to a fascinating book. There aren't many books that I'm tempted to read a second time when there are so many other good books out there remaining to be read, but I am seriously tempted with this one. It's such a layered and nuanced story that I imagine a second reading would allow me to pick up on details I may have missed the first time around. I'm also interested to check out the author's latest book, Every Waking Moment, which sounds like it should also be an excellent read.
Specific to the audio edition:
About a year ago, I attended a lecture at a library conference where a representative from an audiobook recording studio discussed the audiobook production process at her company. She commented that while many authors wish to narrate their own audiobooks, it's not usually a good idea. She prefers to hire professional actors to narrate audiobooks. In many cases, I think she's right, but I think this audiobook proved to be an exception to that rule. Chris Fabry did an amazing job narrating his book. Perhaps his experience hosting his own radio show came into play. At any rate, the listener gets to hear the author's "voice" literally as well as figuratively, and I think in this case it adds to the enjoyment. The sarcasm and dry humor in the main character's words comes through loud and clear in the author's narration.
The various character voices are well differentiated and pleasant to listen to. Even the female characters' voices are well done. When male narrators try too hard to make their female characters sound distinctively female, they can come across sounding nasal or falsetto in a way that no human voice should sound. Thankfully, that's not the case here. Instead female voices are mostly mid-range and sound fairly gender neutral, which in my opinion works perfectly. You know from context they're female, but the voice doesn't get in the way of the story.
In short, I would highly recommend this book. If you're an audiobook fan or you're looking for listening material for an extended car ride or while doing chores or errands, this one gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from me. For those who prefer to read in print or ebook format, those editions should be good too.