Vida is 19 and has never had much of a life. Struggling along with a life-threatening heart condition, her whole life has been one long preparation for death. But suddenly she is presented with a donor heart, and just in time. Now she gets to do something she never imagined she'd have to do: live.
Richard is a 36-year-old man who’s just lost his beloved wife, Lorrie, in a car accident. Still in shock and not even having begun the process of grieving, he is invited to the hospital to meet the young woman who received his wife’s donor heart.
Vida takes one look at Richard and feels she’s loved him all her life. And tells him so. Richard assumes she’s just a foolish young girl. And maybe she is. Or maybe there’s truth behind the theory of cellular memory, and maybe it really is possible for a heart to remember, at least for a time, on its own.
Second Hand Heart is both a story of having to learn to live for the first time, and having to learn to live all over again.
(Summary taken from goodreads.)
Title: Second Hand Heart
Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde
Genre: Adult Fiction, Coming of Age,
Publisher: Black Swan
Publication Date: September 2, 2010.
Source: Received from author. Many thanks goes to Catherine Ryan Hyde, and Kari from Teen Book Scene for sending me a copy of this book for review. I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
My rating: 4/5
Second Hand Heart chronicles the journey Vida is taking in preparation for her death. She doesn't want to die, but it is inevitable what with her heart condition. When she receives a heart transplant, she is both bemused and grateful. For her to receive a heart, that meant someone else had to die. When she meets her donor's husband, she realizes that she is suddenly, and strongly in love with him. He passes off her adoration as foolishness. With Richard and Vida both having to become accustomed to their new realities, they will need to learn how to live for the first time, and all over again.
Second Hand Heart starts off with a solid observation from Vida. She is preparing for her death; unsure if she will receive a heart transplant, and if she does receive one, if her body will accept it. She talks as if she is conspiring with the reader; her voice uttered through the pages of her journal. She is a realistic sort, not afraid of death, but not hastening it either. When she gets a reprieve from death, she has no idea what to do with her newfound life. She is now trying to find herself. When she is with Richard, we see just how young she is, and also how fathomless her wisdom is. Her friendship with Esther adds more to the story as well.
Richard is one of those characters that I couldn't help but empathize with. He has just suffered a debilitating blow, and is going so far as to meet the person who received his newly deceased wife's heart. I think Catherine Ryan Hyde tackles the subject or theory of cellular memory beautifully, as both Richard and Vida learn over the duration of the book, what exactly the heart knows.
This also could be considered a coming of age novel in the sense that Vida learns how to live, while Richard learns what it is like to live without his wife, Lorrie. Vida also learns what it is like to make new memories separate from those associated with the hearts history.
All in all, a well-rendered book. It is a slow-paced, yet intensely emotional read. The depth given to Vida and Richard, and the circumstances they find themselves in, will have the reader deeply invested in the outcome.There is some detailing of the procedure Vida undergoes, but I did not find it overly graphic. While this book is aimed at adult readers, I do think young adults would enjoy it as well.