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.