*I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Ailsa Rae is learning how to live.
She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that – just in time – saved her life. Life should be a joyful adventure. But . . .
Her relationship with her mother is at breaking point and she wants to find her father.
Have her friends left her behind?
And she’s felt so helpless for so long that she’s let polls on her blog make her decisions for her. She barely knows where to start on her own.
Then there’s Lennox. Her best friend and one time lover. He was sick too. He didn’t make it. And now she’s supposed to face all of this without him.
But her new heart is a bold heart.
She just needs to learn to listen to it . . .
I really liked Stephanie Butland’s Lost For Words but I loved The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae.
Given that a large chunk of the plot and emotional development is around medical conditions, transplants, and dying or not-dying, Butland has written a book that is thoughtful, humorous, and whatever the opposite of maudlin is. She does not dwell on the difficulties of having a potentially fatal condition, or recovering from one, but instead examines them in a matter-of-fact way that both educates, entertains, and stirs the emotions.
Ailsa Rae is generally a more likeable protagonist than Loveday Cardew was, but that is understandable because despite the different damages they both carry Ailsa had Emily and co., Tamsin, and above all else, Hayley. Hayley actually steals the show here on a number of occasions with her wit, practicality and huge, warm heart.
Speaking of hearts, there is romance here, which is handled realistically with natural doubts, mistakes and the slow glow of self-and-each-other-awareness. The real focus though is on the journey of discovery and personal growth of Ailsa and the two-tone narrative of her blue and red hearts. I loved the incorporation of Ailsa’s blog posts and emails in the text, as this added both intimacy and immediacy, even though I got as exasperated as her mother with her reliance on those polls!
One of the issues covered here is weight. Ailsa is concerned about her recovery weight gain, even as she acknowledges that it shouldn’t matter in the scale of things and her overall health is more important. I found this dichotomy rang true for me, as did the treatments by the media and even her loved ones. This can be a sensitive subject and I felt that it was handled well, with Ailsa showing concern and hurt, but not overly dwelling on appearance over substance.
The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae would be excellent for bookgroup discussions, especially if juxtaposed with other similarly-topiced, differently-toned novels such as The Fault in Our Stars (John Green) or My Sister’s Keeper (Jodi Picault).
I would also wholeheartedly (!) recommend Stephanie Butland’s novels for anyone who loves warm stories about family, friendships and finding yourself.
‘I’ll sell you my Duke of Edinburgh badge if that will help,’ Seb says.
She likes that he doesn’t smile when he’s joking. ‘I get one automatically. For being from Edinburgh. You don’t have to do any camping or anything.’
‘No,’ Ailsa says. There’s a beat before he looks at her.
‘Bloody unicorns,’ he says, ‘you’re all lying bastards.’
And now she’s laughing, properly.
– Stephanie Butland, The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae
You can check out my review of Stephanie Butland’s Lost For Words here.
The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae is out on Amazon tomorrow (19th April)!