Every fourth or final Friday of a month I will post a book review. Sometimes it will be a book I read years ago, other times I will have just turned the last page of the novel and feel like writing a review about it.
I chose My Heart Remembers for this month’s book review because it was the pick of my Goodreads Christian Fiction Devourers Book Club’s Buddy Read for March. I’m so glad I’m part of this book club, as being a member is a great way to discover new authors and new books.
My March 2018 Review
Who knew a phrase as simple as “Take care o’ the wee ones” would cause a lump in my throat and the need to fight back tears every time I read it? Each of the 16 times I read it! According to my Kindle search, that’s how often “wee ones” is used in reference to this directive given by a father to his 8-year-old daughter in Kim Vogel Sawyer’s Christian historical novel, My Heart Remembers. If a phrase repeated that often seems like overkill, just wait until you read this book – “wee ones” will make you get all verklempt too!
It’s not only that phrase that will do you in, as there are multiple scenes throughout this novel that are sad or touching. Kim Vogel Sawyer is a master at both dialogue and description that will grip your heart.
“Just as she had Molly, Maelle kissed her brother’s cheeks and forehead. She whispered, ‘I’ll always be loving ya’, Mattie Gallagher.'”
Oh boy! That second sentence is one that got to me the most. Once you read the scenario regarding it – you might need a tissue.
My Heart Remembers is a story about three Irish immigrant children living in New York City in 1886 who, after their parents die in a tenement fire, are then sent on an orphan train to Missouri. Maelle at age 8 is the oldest sibling; her brother Matthew “Mattie” is a few years younger; and then Molly is a baby. Each child winds up being taken-in by a different caregiver at the beginning of the book, and Maelle promises her brother Mattie that when she gets older she will find him and their sister Molly and they’ll all be together once again. The rest of the novel covers about 20 years of Maelle trying to search for her siblings.
The story is told by the point of view of all three siblings, with chapters going forward in time, and switching from one POV to the other within chapter changes. I usually like the use of only one POV, but in this novel it worked really well to show the lives of all three children growing up.
Each sibling walked very different paths on how they were raised. Maelle was a traveling photographer’s assistant and lived in box wagon, and once the photographer died, Maelle took pictures mostly of homeless children who were being over-worked and under-paid. Later in the book she meets up with a man who will try basically to make laws against child labor. Maelle’s photography skills come into play helping this man with that goal, and she once again feels the pull to take care of those “wee ones.”
Mattie does live with a nice family for a couple of years, but the majority of his young life is spent working as an unpaid ranch hand for an abusive cattle rancher named Jenks. Mattie is later able to escape this mean man and find a job on a ranch tending sheep, but Jenks comes back into the picture at the end of the novel.
Molly lives a comfortable life growing up under the care of a wealthy family, but when she’s 17, those parents die, leaving behind Molly and her older brother. Turns out though the older brother was always jealous of Molly, and he finds out about her biological parents, and he disowns Molly and pretty much throws her out on the street. Molly then has to figure out how to survive on her own.
Maelle, Mattie, and Molly all came to know God in different ways because of their dissimilar home environments, but all three of them did eventually love Him and come to rely on God and trust Him in their darkest moments of need.
I loved learning new things from this historical book, such as I had never even heard of orphan trains. I also didn’t know about child labor being abused too much in the late 1880s / early 1900s. It was also pretty cool to read about the old-time cameras and photography equipment.
I had not read any of Kim Vogel Sawyer’s books before, but I enjoyed My Heart Remembers, and I look forward to reading the sequel, In Every Heartbeat.