Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide in her small Minnesota hometown and living with her parents, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.
When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.
As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.
With a story line featuring sisters and world travel, I expected to enjoy this book. What I didn’t expect is how much The Heart Between Us would emotionally impact me.
Meg’s experience is totally foreign to me. I’ve never experienced any health issues and neither have any of my family members. So, I was impressed with her resilience, hope and positive attitude. I can’t say that I would be able to handle such a serious challenge with the same level of grace as she does. Meg sees herself as someone desiring adventure, but when her chance comes, she lets it pass. Her fear and complacent acceptance hold her back from pursuing her dream. That is something I definitely can relate to. It’s so easy to make excuses for not stepping out of my own comfort zone. It’s scary to try new things, even when we want to. Risks come with no guarantees.
But I found myself even more surprised by how much I related to Meg’s sister Crystal. I wasn’t sure what to make of her at the beginning of the story. But the more I learned about her own fears, her need to control, her use of emotional distance as security, the more I found my own heart revealed on the page. It is a bit disconcerting to find a kindred spirit in a fictional character you aren’t even sure you like!
Author Lindsay Harrel wrote about themes of fear, control, bravery, imperfection and dreams in such a tender way. The journey to healing for both sisters is so compassionately written but peppered with necessary truth along the way. I felt as if I was underlining every other page with all the revelation I received as I made that same journey with Meg and Crystal.
Seeing the world through Meg’s eyes as she completes the travel bucket list left by her donor was such an enjoyable experience. I adore travel, even if I have to do it vicariously. It certainly whetted my appetite for similar adventures. I also appreciated the way the romance was woven into both sisters’ stories without overpowering the emotional journeys they were on. Both Caleb and Brian were patient, caring, thoughtful men who made good partners for Meg and Crystal.
Books can become favorites for different reasons. For me, The Heart Between Us will always be a favorite because of the unexpected personal connection I experienced in being forced to examine my own heart. I’m sure I will constantly refer back to it and the underlined passages when I need a little truth and encouragement in my own life.