Heaven Help Heidi by Sally John


I have often wondered what possesses an author to have multiple major story lines in one novel. Subplots are great! But a novel needs just one major story line. This one has two major story lines that interlace Two love stories, well three if you count the past love story of Liv McAlister and her quasi-love story with a dear friend. ACK!

Liv has a secret that is only alluded to when she meets Heidi. There is no reason to keep this a secret from the reader. We're in her head for crying out loud. She goes to a friend to discuss the problem, but we don't find out what the problem is. That is the worst kind of ploy authors and editors indulge in these days. Frustration bubbles up, not anticipation. There is no suspense, and when frustration increases to a certain degree, the reader is more likely to toss the book to the floor rather than keep reading to the end. That's what I did, so I have no idea how the thing ends. What's more, don't tell me because I really don't care.

Too many characters that feel two-dimensional rather than well developed into warm, real, messy people. Three-quarters of the way through, I gave up. I found out I really didn't care about any of the characters. I tried to, but by that time the Heidi story was so watered-down by the distractions of the other characters I just gave up.

Give me a story where two or even three characters are developed and finely woven into a smooth flowing story and I'll read every word to the very last page. I'll even read all the acknowledgements and the "About the Author" page. This is not that kind of story. This story is choppy. It feels disconnected, and there is far too much head jumping.

You have a sloppy driver get into a sloppy one-car accident (Heidi) and you have a deeply grieving woman (Piper) who was engaged, not married to a military man.

Piper didn't have years of memories of loving and living with her man. She was engaged, but she is portrayed as a "dead" woman as her story opens, and we are told she acts for years like she's devastated. Then suddenly, she blossoms into all tingling delight at the mere sight of a man. No depth, no build-up, no anticipation with that. Just goo-goo eyes and heart flip-flops. Perhaps that happens to teenagers: The flipping of emotions, the sudden attitude changes, the languishing and mercurial moods swings, but not to an almost 30-year-old. Okay, there are moments when she realizes she hasn't thought of her dead fiance. She thinks she just might be able to go on with her life. Suddenly we find out she isn't happy in her job and she doesn't get along with her boss. Again, no build-up, nothing to indicate this contrived plot twist. This is both an editor and an author problem.

As for Heidi, she is a much more developed character. It is almost like this book was written about Heidi, and then some other characters were thrown in to pad the novel. This story would have been tremendous if all the focus was on Heidi. She makes the other characters seem like mere distractions, buzzing flies. The book is worth it just for Heidi. Her life is a mess. She has problems with what is actually important in life. It is fun watching her grow into a God-loving woman. I'm glad they changed the name from Take My Hand, to Heaven Help Heidi. The title fits perfectly.

Because of Heidi, I give it 2 stars of 5.


Welcome to the Casa de Vida—eleven quaint bungalows located three blocks from the Pacific Ocean in tiny Seaside Village, California. Owner Liv McAlister never advertises vacancies beyond a small hand-lettered sign out front, preferring to trust that God will send the right tenant at just the right time. And He always does.

Heidi Hathaway’s life has been turned upside down. After an accident leaves her injured, unable to work, and incapable of negotiating the stairs in her multilevel oceanfront condo, she leases her home and moves into a cozy little cottage in the charming garden complex where her friend Piper lives. There she finds so much more than a place to rest and recover.

Piper Keyes knows Jared is not coming back from Afghanistan. After making it through the fifth anniversary of his death, she wonders if she’s at last ready to get on with life. She gingerly explores new avenues—photography, cooking, and buying her own boutique—and learns to open her heart again.

The most comforting thing about living at the Casa is that the women there become each other’s mentors and confidantes, learning from their own mistakes and arriving at new, healed places in their lives.

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