Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Indelible Heart by Marianne K. Martin

Publisher:                   Bywater Books

One of life's lessons is learning where boundaries are and how to live within them.  Marianne K. Martin takes that subject and wraps it in a story so skillfully that the reader might absorb a message without realizing it.  In The Indelible Heart, Martin uses the interactions between friends to show how boundaries can be difficult to maintain.

The book picks up a story line first addressed in Martin's book Love in the Balance and brings it forward ten years.  Charlie Crawford murdered two neighbors who were lesbians and now his family is trying to get him out of prison early because he is dying.  The killings nearly destroyed the life of Sharon Davis who was a friend of the slain women.  The trauma of the incident drove her into alcoholism and caused her relationship with her lover Laura to fail.  Years later Sharon thinks she has finally put her life back together and then the effort to free Crawford sends her back into the bottle.  On top of that, Laura has returned to town to care for her ailing mother.  Sharon has two obsessions and they're about to slam into each other.  She can't resist Laura and she cannot forgive Crawford.  People who know her, especially her best friend and business partner Kasey Hollander, are afraid Sharon is going to lose control of her life again, but disagree over what they should do about it.  What they do not want is a repeat of what happened ten years ago.

The Indelible Heart can be read and appreciated as a story of a woman who is trying to find balance in her life and her chance to possibly recapture the love she once knew.  If the reader is looking for a romance, then this book suits that purpose.  Marianne Martin has a habit though of going deeper with her characters and sometimes that can make the observant reader uncomfortable.  Martin can cut pretty close to the bone.

Sharon, for example, cannot just commit to an action, she becomes consumed by it.  Movements need people like Sharon, but they can be very difficult to live with, even when someone loves them.  Sharon becomes so focused on revenge against Crawford that she cannot see the fact that, no matter what is done to him, it will never bring her friends back.  Her boundary failure is that she cannot turn off her campaign for justice at appropriate moments.  Her way of coping with frustration is to get drunk.  Even when she has an opportunity to get Laura back there is still the chance that she will turn to alcohol instead.

Sharon is not the only character with boundary issues.  Kasey hates Laura for what she perceives was done to Sharon.  Even while Kasey is pointing out Sharon's failure to deal with the Crawford situation, she cannot see Sharon's responsibility for what happened with the relationship.  Then Kasey crosses the ultimate line when she confronts Laura and tries to drive her out of Sharon's life.  Even best friends have to realize there are limits they should not exceed.  Laura has to learn not to let her experiences in her early life interfere with what she can have with Sharon.  Sage Bristow and her partner Deanne deal with different barriers as they try to raise their daughter with pride in her ethnic background in a society that never makes that easy.

One of the things that makes reading The Indelible Heart interesting is that it deals with the characters realistically.  These people make mistakes.  They have emotional reactions that ring true and sometimes those reactions are totally inappropriate.  Readers will be able to say "I know someone like her" or, perhaps, "I am her."  Ultimately however the message is about survival.  It is about how, even when you make mistakes, friends and family will be there when you figure out what you have done wrong.  They will forgive you and you will forgive them.  Most importantly, you will understand each other even when you do not agree.  That is what real relationships are about.

The Indelible Heart is not a dark book, but it is a thoughtful one.  It will not take long to read it.  Not nearly as long as it will cause the reader to think about what it says.  For those who say they want to see more stories that deal with real issues in an entertaining way, this is the answer.

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