In Not In the Heart by Chris Fabry, Truman Wiley was once a promising reporter. However, downsizing cost him his job and a gambling addiction has resulted in estrangement from his family, the loss of his home, and some shady characters coming after him for a debt he owes. On top of everything else, his son is in the hospital and needs a new heart.
But an unexpected opportunity arises: a death row inmate wants him to write his story before his execution. The inmate’s wife is in the same Bible study as Truman’s wife, who has known about and prayed for Truman’s son’s condition for years. In return, the inmate wants to give Truman’s son his heart. He wants something good to come from his death. The public has mixed emotions and the governor needs some persuasion, but it looks like the heart donation will be approved.
As Truman begins to write the story, however, it begins to look like the inmate’s claims of innocence might actually be true. If he didn’t kill the murdered girl, who did? And if he’s innocent, what happens to Truman’s son?
I’ve never read a book by Fabry before and got this one on a Kindle sale because the story sounded interesting. His writing grabbed me from the start and the story kept up at a rapid pace all the way through. Some surprising twists and turns near the end led to quite an unexpected ending. In short, Fabry has a new fan. I loved some of his phrasing:
The trouble with my wife began when she needed Jesus and I needed a cat.
The woman of my dreams. The woman of my nightmares. Everything good and bad about my life. The “I do” that “I didn’t.”
Someone said, “Hey, Wanda,” and I deduced that this was Wanda. This is why I am such a good reporter.
I pulled out my phone as I hurried along and texted Abby, U OK? I had to stop while I texted because I am not a teenager.
A black pit bull barreled against the fence, jaws dripping with saliva, viciously barking like Old Yeller after the hydrophobia kicked in.
Ron pointed Helen’s gun at me. What kind of name is Ron for such a menacing figure?
Throughout most of the book, Truman’s view of faith is outside-looking-in. He doesn’t share his wife’s faith and pretty much disdains it. He doesn’t believe the inmate’s (Terrelle) profession of faith and dreads writing that part of the book, but he wants to handle it in a way that doesn’t offend “the faithful.” In my one minor criticism of the book, Truman’s own faith journey seemed a little rushed at the end – but then, everything was happening pretty fast at the end.
The point of view was unusual in this book. Most of the time it was from Truman’s point of view, written in the first person. But other chapters from the point of view of other characters are written in the third person.
One area I am somewhat on the fence about concerns his descriptions, mainly in a seedy club owned by one of the potential bad guys. Fabry is careful not to get overly descriptive, but some readers might feel he pushed the envelope a bit more than they’re comfortable with there.
But overall I loved the book and have already started on another by Fabry.
(Sharing at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)