Publisher: Infinity Publishing
Faithful to My Heart is a complex book to read. On the surface it is the story of women struggling to find a place in a hostile world and with others of their kind who are thrown into a harrowing circumstance. Overshadowing that story however is a great deal of political and philosophical discussion about the role of lesbian women in American society. It almost seems as if Ms Wagner started out writing one book and ended up with another.
Brooke Kent and Renee Calderwood have been best friends longer than either can remember. Renee has seen her friend go through terrible losses and gradually withdraw from the world into a very lonely existence where Brooke seems satisfied to go to her job, and then retreat home to isolate herself from most contact with other people except Renee. The situation has been worsening since the death of Brooke's grandmother almost two years before, but Renee thinks she has found the solution to what is bothering Brooke. She convinces her friend to take an all-lesbian cruise with her, both for a change of scenery and for the chance to perhaps meet "the woman." And the cure seems to be working. They become part of a lively group of women of mixed interests and occupations who begin to open Brooke's eyes to all kinds of possibilities. She finds herself attracted to more than one woman and beginning to establish meaningful relationships within the group...and then explosions rock the cruise ship.
The next time Brook is conscious, she finds herself in a rowboat and listening to the sounds of drowning women and, more horrific, the screams of women being taken by sharks. Unable to process what has happened, Brooke lapses into unconsciousness again and does not recover until weeks later. She awakens to find that she, Renee and a number of other women have been marooned on a deserted island. They find themselves faced with the task of acquiring shelter, food, medical care, and structuring a society for themselves from practically nothing. They have no idea what happened to the ship, who survived or if anyone is still trying to find them. The bulk of the book deals with how these women find a way to survive and coexist.
Gradually, the island also begins to reveal mysteries. There is evidence of previous habitation, perhaps of a sinister nature. And some of the women have isolated themselves on a desolate part of the island and refuse to have anything to do with the others. Brooke will play a major role in answering these mysteries, while she falls in love with one woman and finds herself infatuated with another at the same time. Just as she begins to resolve this conflict, she makes a startling discovery that will change everything for everyone on the island.
The characters in this book provide quite a variety of personalities. There is a long term and very devoted lesbian couple, wise women who practice Wicca and healing arts, a golf pro, a Senator from Arizona who is not only a lesbian but a champion of the rights of immigrants at the Mexican border, and numerous others. Most of them are admirable and the ones who are not are provided with explanations as to their poor behavior.
The most puzzling character in the book is the main character Brooke. Early in the book she has a long soliloquy about the type of woman she is looking for and she appears to find her in a woman she meets on the boat. Once they have both survived to reach the island however, Brooke risks everything to run off on an impetuous chase after a mysterious stranger. Brooke's character is the most elusive and sometimes difficult to understand as she moves from being extremely mature one moment to completely irrational at others. At the end, a scene that would have contributed greatly to understanding her appears to have been cut out and is only related briefly by another character.
The story alone would have made a nice book telling about the relationships among the women and how they survived under difficult circumstances. Ms Wagner apparently was not satisfied with that however. The book is full of intense discussions, arguments and observations about sexual politics, relationships between gay men and lesbians, the abuses of women in American society, role playing among lesbians, the difficulties for women in the work place, especially lesbians, and a great deal of pontificating about the superiority of lesbians in just about every type of relationship. These discussions often go on for pages as different characters reveal every aspect of every topic. At times it seems that the philosophical discussions are more important than the story itself. The end of the book, while it might be satisfying to lesbians, is truly a flight of fantasy. None of this means that Faithful to My Heart is not a good book to read, but, if you are looking for a simple story to enjoy, there are a lot of things to distract you in this book.