4 out of 4 stars
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A Crowded Heart by Andrea McKenzie Raine is a historical fiction novel that begins with the eruption of World War II. Willis Hancock is desperate to escape his small town life and decides to enlist. His parents try to dissuade him from enlisting, even going as far as to set him up with local girls. Nothing stops Willis. He enters the war and sees things that no one can imagine. One day while on a much-deserved break, he meets Ellie. He is intoxicated by her brightness. After a week, he gives her a promise ring, then goes back to the war. Ellie waits patiently for his return. As soon as he gets back, they wed. Things start out promising, but take a drastic turn.
The memories of fallen comrades invade his thoughts at every moment, driving him to drink. He has moments when he thinks he is getting better, but then he falls right back down again. Ellie tries her hardest to stay close to him. She really struggles with how to help him and finds herself drifting from him. They drift even further apart after having a miscarriage. During this time, Willis stays distant from his parents. They don't know about anything that he is going through. How can someone endure so much loss and pain? How does a loved one help in this situation? How can they cope?
It is rare to find a book that dives straight into the depths of human emotion. There are aspects of life that are very much stigmatized and rarely discussed so openly. Reading books that go into detail about the hardships of life create empathy and understanding which can help those around us.
I loved this book, but it is heartbreaking. Themes like PTSD, miscarriage, addiction, and mental health are very much present in this book. After World War II, there wasn't a lot of help for soldiers struggling with PTSD. The author does a great job of showing the horror and suffering from PTSD. The characters are all well-developed. Willis' character is so tragic. Readers will feel for him and want to desperately help. Ellie's character is also amazing. She doesn't know how to help Willis but does whatever she can. She also has her own moments of struggle but often shows determination to not lose herself as well. The conflicts that arise in their life are still very relatable today.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. I did not see any grammar issues. The book is well edited. I did finish this book in one afternoon. I could not put it down. The ending will leave the reader feeling so many different emotions. I really enjoy that the author discusses real issues that can affect anyone. There is only one issue I have with the book and that is the story's timeline does advance rather quickly. There are points where the story will jump 2-3 years ahead in the middle of the chapter. I feel this could be paced a bit better. However, that did not detract from my enjoyment of the book. However, be prepared for some graphic situations and language. This book is for those who enjoy historical fiction or stories of war. I do believe that anyone could read this book and learn something or relate to the struggles of the characters.
A Crowded Heart
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