Playing By Heart by Anne Mateer Bethany House ISBN978-0-7642-1065-5

Playing By Heart, a novel written by Anne Mateer, takes place in Dunn, Oklahoma in the early 20th century. Lula Bowman thought she had escaped her former life in Dunn and was now living her father’s dream for her. She had become a math teacher and had won a scholarship. With hard work and dedication to her pursuit of academic success, she hoped to earn a Ph.D. When tragedy strikes her sister, her siblings insisted she abandon her work and studies and return home to care for her sister and her children. Reluctantly and with great sadness, she complied with their demands. Quickly realizing she needed an income, she sought a math teaching position, but found that position was already filled by Chet who was also the boys basketball coach. Having no other options, Lula accepted a position as a music teacher and agreed to coach the girls basketball team-a sport she knew nothing about. She asked Chet for help.

Chet’s life was far from perfect. His brother was serving in the military overseas during the war and Chet had remained home to care for their difficult and bitter mother. She never let Chet forget he was not her favorite. Chet had become adept at tactfully deflecting advances from the single women in Dunn, but Lula’s presence changed things for him.

Using natural dialogue, the story is told alternately by Lula and Chet. Their lives intersect and separate more than once in this beautifully written book. Even though there was a mutual attraction between Lula and Chet, they must determine whose lives they were actually living- their own or someone else’s? The secondary characters add depth and contribute much to the story.

I found this to be a thoughtfully told story. Just as the reader follows the characters through their struggles with tragedy, despair and loss, we watch their personal growth and how they handled change and challenges. This is a story filled with hope, faith, love and honor and I recommend reading it.

I received this book for free through Bethany House and I give this review of my own free will.

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