Author: Jill Dawson
Genre: general fiction
Published: February 10 2015
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
After years of excessive drink and sex, Patrick has suffered a massive heart attack. Although he's only fifty, he's got just months to live. But a tragic accident involving a teenager and a motorcycle gives the university professor a second chance. He receives the boy's heart in a transplant, and by this miracle of science, two strangers are forever linked.
Though Patrick's body accepts his new heart, his old life seems to reject him. Bored by the things that once enticed him, he begins to look for meaning in his experience. Discovering that his donor was a local boy named Drew Beamish, he becomes intensely curious about Drew's life and the influences that shaped him--from the eighteenth-century ancestor involved in a labor riot to the bleak beauty of the Cambridgeshire countryside in which he was raised. Patrick longs to know the story of this heart that is now his own.
In this intriguing and deeply absorbing story, Jill Dawson weaves together the lives and loves of three vibrant characters connected by fate to explore questions of life after death, the nature of the soul, the unseen forces that connect us, and the symbolic power of the heart.
Literary fiction is often a hard sell for me. I like the ideas that can be explored in varied, meaningful ways and Jill Dawson does so here with The Tell-Tale Heart. It's the story of an older heart transplant recipient, Patrick, and that the recent life of his donator and the donator's ancestors in a labor riot in the 1800s. It's an interesting premise and an interesting story, but there was no emotional connection for me to anything or anyone depicted.
I liked the book most when Patrick wasn't involved. He's pretty much a wash of a character -- judgmental, weak-willed, entitled, rude, and misogynistic. I was much more interested in the life of his counterpart Drew Beamish, the kid whose heart ends up in Patrick, and Drew's ancestor Willie Beamiss. The fact that the novel focuses much more on Patrick than his counterparts was disappointing to me. Patrick's storyline has potential -- characterizing Helen and Alice, especially -- but Patrick himself is a cold fish made colder by his reluctance to be a decent person.
I can deal with unlikeable characters, and often love them, but I have to have something to glom onto to really care about the story. Drew has a lot of potential in his confused teenage life, but his sections, like Willie's, are too short to make that much of an impact. For all that though, The Tell-Tale Heart is readable and offers a new perspective in the lives of organ donors and recipients. That angle carried the most empathy into the story and what kept me reading.