Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer

I loved Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer. Mateer’s simple, unpretentious writing style draws us easily into the lives of her characters and their struggles. What do you do with yourself when you want to achieve something great, but everyday duties in your small world demand your attention and your heart? Through Lula Bowman and Chet Vaughn, Mateer weaves a story of heartache and hope, duty and dreams, and shows us that sometimes a fairy tale ending can take many paths.

Lula Bowman is an average girl who has worked hard to achieve her college education and collegiate teaching position, something few women during World War I accomplished. But when heartache strikes her sister’s family, Lula leaves her dreams to help her sister for a short time. When Lula’s time with Jewel’s family lengthens, Lula does what needs to be done and pushes her own disappointments aside. Despite her sacrifice, returning to her hometown of Dunn brings more heartaches from the past that Lula thought she left behind. Yet, she finds solace in her friendship with Chet Vaughn, sometimes, in her music and oddly enough in coaching basketball.

Chet Vaughn is a man who wants nothing more than to escape the stifling town of Dunn for military service overseas. But he can’t because of a promise he made to his brother Clay to stay with his mother and care for her. So he’s learned to be content with God’s plan for him while deftly avoiding the advances of female colleagues interested in marriage and him. But Lula arrives and throws him off kilter.

While Mateer’s main characters steal the show in this book, I was intrigued by the believable supporting characters that create the story of the town where Chet and Lula work through their challenges. I read this book in short order. Playing by Heart is full of surprises, laughter, and love which bubble up over and around the heartaches and disappointments. I look forward to reading more of Anne Mateer’s novels. Bethany House gave me a complimentary copy of Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer for my candid review.

Colliding with Destiny by Sarah Jakes

I was excited about the idea of examining the biblical story of Ruth more closely in Colliding with Destiny: Finding Hope in the Legacy of Ruth by Sarah Jakes. Colliding with Destiny did deliver in part what I hoped.

I liked how each chapter sequentially introduced a part of the story of Ruth. I felt that telling the story of Ruth through multiple biblical translation was effective in creating, a full, powerful story of Ruth. I thought the chapter titles introductory quotes were carefully chosen and matched well the different facets of Ruth’s story. I feel I understand much better the story of Ruth and how her trails apply to my challenges and disappointments.

But, overall I was not impressed or motivated by Colliding with Destiny for several reasons. I was initially confused the with journal and prayer sections that conclude each chapter. A brief reference to those sections in the introduction would have clarified questions of how best to use those sections which are unfamiliar to some readers.

While I enjoyed some of Jakes’ discussion of Ruth, I felt Jakes sometimes stretched the story of Ruth too much to fit her purpose, and added suppositions as part of Ruth’s story. Jakes’ obviously has experiences that have taught her a lot about life and relationships, but all of the chapters seem focused mainly on Jakes’ life experiences. As the book progressed I felt like I was reading the memoirs of Sarah Jakes rather than a discussion of how the story of Ruth applies to everyone.

I so wanted to like this book from the moment I saw the beautiful cover and read the introductory chapter, but it’s not what it could have been. Bethany House gave me a complimentary copy of Colliding with Destiny: Finding Hope in the Legacy of Ruth by Sarah Jakes for my candid review.