The Heart Mender–a gripping story of a woman whose husband was killed by Nazis during WWII and the Nazi who washed up on her beach on the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama–is based on actual events. The story itself is compelling, but the way it was written made it hard to read in a way.
First, Andrews starts the book with a first-person POV research dump. The story is based on a historical event, which includes the not-well-known fact that Nazi submarines frequently attacked military and merchant ships right off our American shores. But much of the information Andrews dumps at the first of the novel could have been woven into the workings of the story itself.
Speaking of the story itself, it was written in an omniscient POV, which, I’m betting, few readers are accustomed to anymore. It’s a valid POV, but it takes a lot of “getting used to.” The fact that Andrews jumps in and out of the heads of so many characters sometimes makes the story difficult to follow.
In his defense, though, I understand why he used the omniscient. He did have to guide the reader through the story, which is the purpose of omniscient. The point of this perspective isn’t to let the reader experience the events from under a character’s skin, as it is in a deeper POV, but to help the reader understand and contemplate the characters and events and their meanings. And since he establishes early that he, the author, is the one telling the story, he did this part well. Head-hopping is just a tool of this particular POV.
The research dumps and the omniscient POV were a couple of reasons the book was difficult to read. Andrews’ writing style was another, but what bothered me as an editor were just picky little things that probably wouldn’t distract anyone else.
Still, The Heart Mender is a multi-dimensional tale with well-rounded characters and a Christian message of forgiveness woven into the historical events. It’s worth reading, but be forewarned of its difficulties.
For authors who want to learn more about this unusual POV and its uses, please ready “A Study in Omniscient POV,” parts one and two. Andy Andrews isn’t the only modern author who employs this technique. And you never know, it might just be the trick you need to make your own story work. But be sure you use it correctly!