Saturday, November 5, 2011

Heartwood by Belva Plain

Belva Plain was a fantastic writer.  Her first novel Evergreen (published in 1978) is an amazing saga that is one of the few books that I can read and re-read without being bored.  Her career continued to produce highly readable, highly enjoyable works of fiction.  They are the kind of books that you can get swept away in on a rainy afternoon.  I was saddened when I heard of Plain's death in 2010.  At the age of 95, she had lived a long, successful life.  I had figured that her novel, Crossroads (published in 2004) was her last.  That's why I was delightfully surprised to find Heartwood on the shelf of my local library this past week.
Heartwood was published posthumously in 2011.  It is the last of the Werner family books (the saga that began in Evergreen).  This novel focuses mostly on Iris and Theo Stern and their daughter Laura.  Really, it is Laura's story that is being told here.
This book was surprisingly short for me (used to Plain's deliciously long satisfying reads).  Some of the book seemed choppy.  It was as though the book may have been pieced together without actually being fully completed (though a complete story lays in its covers).  I wonder if Plain meant for this book to be published.  Perhaps it is a tale she began, but hadn't completely worked into its fullness.  There seemed to be a need for some filling in.  Then again, it could be just that she would have wrote it in her 90's which is a great accomplishment in itself.
Whatever the reason for the difference, this book does bring a conclusion to the Evergreen tale first began so many years ago.  I did enjoy it and I'm grateful for this last surprise offering from a beloved author.

*If you are new to Plain's work I highly reccomend the Werner saga to you.  The correct reading order for these books are:
  • Evergreen (1978)
  • Golden Cup (1986)
  • Tapestry (1988)
  • Harvest (1990)
  • Heartwood (2011)
**Crescent City (1984) is loosely related to this saga as a pre-saga novel.  I believe there may be another book that is loosely connected but I can't remember which one right now.

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