Heart and Soul
Dr. Clara Casey had been hoping for an important post within the hospital. When that falls through she takes the position as the head of a new cardiology clinic in one of the poorer sections in Dublin. Her administrator isn't giving her much support, but she's determined to make the clinic a visible, active, important part of the neighborhood. Her first task is to get staff for the clinic. The people will make a difference on how the clinic will be accepted by their patients.
Clara is also dealing with two grown daughters still living at home and a separated husband who keeps returning to her life. He wants... understanding? a divorce? to get back together? It changes each time they talk. One daughter is dating a vegetarian and is a teacher. The other is finishing university and doesn't know what she wants to do with her life. Clara refuses to support her once she has finished. When she has a bad day at work it doesn't help when she comes home to discordance there.
She hires a Polish immigrant, Ania, as her general assistant. Ania works hard at numerous jobs. She is trying to earn money for her mother back in Poland. She left her home in shame and is now learning about her self and her new friends and neighbors. Fiona and Barbara are the nurses Clara hires. They're wonderful nurses who have been friends for years, even when Fiona was making a great mistake in her life choices. Hilary is the office manager. She's a widow with her grown son and her mother with dementia living with her. Declan is a new doctor who's first post is in the heart clinic. He comes from a blue collar family and is still adjusting to his new life.
The patients soon start accepting the clinic. Some of them get very involved with the staff and programs at the clinic. As the year of Clara's assignment passes the clinic becomes more a part of the community.
Heart and Soul was inspired by Maeve Binchy's time in a cardiac rehab facility after getting heart disease. There are numerous personal stories intertwined in this book, which makes it confusing at times. Many of the stories are told separately, like Ania's, Declan's, and Fiona's. Some of the stories are ongoing - especially Clara's.
This is a quietly happy book. Even the conflicts are fairly quiet. The book is pleasant with some heart warming stories. There are some medical situations within the clinic, but most of the action takes place out in the neighborhood or further afield. The main problem is there are so many characters that it hard to follow them. Because many of the stories are told individually, there are characters who aren't introduced until half way through the book. Some disappear without a whisper or conclusion. Some of the characters from Nights of Rain and Stars reappear in this novel as well. Most of the story lines are predictable.
While not deep literature, this is pleasant escapism.
These reviews are personal opinions only and in no way reflect other readers' opinions of the books discussed.
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