What I’m Reading Wednesday: Close to the Broken Hearted

We’ve had some really lovely early summer weather, perfect for curling up on the screened porch with a glass of ice tea and a good book. This week’s recommendation is the soon-to-be-released novel Close to the Broken Hearted by Michael Hiebert.

I really loved Close to the Broken Hearted. Michael Hiebert’s second book did not disappoint.

Twenty-two year old Sylvie was deeply traumatized as a child when she saw her baby brother shot to death in her father’s arms. The man who killed him, Preacher Eli, was sent to jail for the crime…but he has just been released. She is now a single mother with a three-month old yet-unnamed baby girl, perceived as a bit odd and clearly affected by everything endured in her childhood (more trauma followed her baby brother’s death), and is known to call in routine complaints to the police station to the point where they no longer take her seriously.

When Preacher Eli returns to Alvin, Sylvie becomes more agitated the about strange things occurring and begins to attribute them to him. While in the eyes of the law Eli has paid his dues to society, soon enough even Detective Leah Teal begins to wonder why he has returned to town and begins to question his innocence. Her overly imaginative son Abe harbors suspicions about him as well and does a little “detective” work of his own with his best friend Dewey. In the midst of this Abe also searches for more information about his father who died when he was too young to remember him, and about whom his mother never talks.

This book is written in a clear Southern voice, from both the first-person perspective of young Abe , an imaginative boy living in Alvin, Alabama, and a third-person perspective of his single mother, Leah Teal.  I found the style very interesting and a clever way to bring readers into Leah’s head and not be limited by Abe’s youth.

Abe’s voice is so charming and clear in its innocence and earnestness – he was delightful, and the kind of kid you hope yours would befriend.

It’s beautifully written, and evokes a strong picture of place and the characters, and the theme of forgiveness is felt strongly throughout. I really enjoyed this book and will soon read Hiebert’s debut novel, Dream with Little Angels, as it introduces Abe and Leah and I want more of their characters!  That said, this book works well as a stand-alone and you don’t need to read the first before reading this novel (although you have time to do so before this is released, hint, hint).

This book felt rich and the suspense pulled me through to the end. Comparisons have been made to Hiebert’s first two books to Harper Lee’s “to Kill a Mockingbird”, and as that is a favorite of mine, I thought it was a pretty serious claim – but I have found it holds up. Definitely worth a read. Enjoy!

Close to the Broken Hearted by Michael Hiebert will be released on June 24, 2014.

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