Clear Heart by Joe Cottonwood, is a story about life. Just that, life. There are no car chases or gunfights or deadly diseases, although there is one race with death that had me praying for a positive outcome.
Wally, a building contractor is just existing, each day a struggle to overcome the death of his wife as well as her betrayal. His highest hope is to create a house that is as close to perfect as possible for an impossible client, while his own life and home are in chaos.
His best friend, Juke, is a misfit with no responsibilities and seemingly no cares except to do his best work for his boss, Wally.
A fateful accident introduces Opal, the force that causes a catharsis, the healing and growing that takes place in this tale of life.
Abe, Opal's son, an immature high school grad who was accepted into Princeton until he pulled a trick on the wrong man.
And last but not least is Frog Girl, Amanda, a pregnant, seventeen-year-old run away.
Throw all these personalities into a pot and stir, add a few side characters for spice and the race to finish the perfect house as the fire. Let it stew. With these ingredients, it simmers, boils, and simmers again. Just like life.
As a member of the audience, allowed a peak into the life of these people, you are shown all the imperfections of Wally and watch as he was able to say good bye to his wife and fall in love again. Watch as Opal realizes she does not need the perfect man, a banker or lawyer for a partner. Watch as Abe and Juke both mature into men who, after being tossed around the water, floundering a bit, learn to grab hold of life and realize what is important. Watch as Frog Girl discovers the mystery and bonds with her unborn baby and makes better and stronger decisions as her life continues.
There were times I did not like the characters, just as in real-life. Some decisions were made that would not be the decisions I would have made, but usually, after some learning and searching, things got back on course again.
I did not like Opal very much, all the way through. I thought she learned the least and did not really understand the minor miracle that was happening in her life. But that is just like real-life, too.
Joe Cottonwood has either been a carpenter or done incredible research. The details are sometimes overwhelming, but embellish the story and add a "scent" (I could smell as well as feel the redwood).
All in all, when I finally got the very end and looked back, I was amazed at the depth of this book. A story does not always need a car chase to be an excellent tale. I really liked Clear Heart.
(reviewed the day of purchase)