A Hole in the Heart

13Jan09

Christopher Marquis’ A Hole in the Heart is the story of loss and rebuilding.  Bean, the main character, is an Alaskan elementary school teacher.  After a painful childhood filled with a cold and distant mother and an absentee father, Bean strikes out on her own, falls in love with Mick and gets married. After Mick dies in a freak accident on Mt. McKinley, Bean is left to fend for herself, and is joined by her kleptomaniac, arthritic mother-in-law, Hanna.  Neither character is ready to let go of Mick, but both are forced to move on.

Bean and Hanna learn to live together, deal with their grief and move on to a collective future.  Bean must start her life over again, but instead of staying Alaska, where she met Mick, she heads back to her hometown of San Francisco.  Once there, Bean learns that she cannot find her answers in the familiar, but rather must start over in her own way.   This is especially difficult, as she reaches painful realizations about her own life and as her beloved friends begin to fade away.

A Hole in the Heart by Christopher Marquis

A Hole in the Heart by Christopher Marquis

I really did like this book. I think that I was surprised at how hard it was for me to read about the profound losses that Bean had faced.  Christopher Marquis deftly creates a character who so desperately wants to find a way to rebuild but at each turn, she must make decisions that mean putting her past and her love further behind her.  Bean must realize that the things in her life that have given her “holes in her heart” can’t be shut off.  She realizes, too, that more heartaches can and do exist in life, and it is up to her to overcome them.

More than anything else, this novel is about rebuilding and creating–surrounding yourself with people who will become your family when yours fails you.  It’s a novel of starting over, even if “starting over” means going back to your hometown as a changed person.  The novel is about learning that life really is about love; sometimes that love is fleeting, sometimes it is lasting, and sometimes it only comes from within.

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