Irreplaceable

( 11 )

Overview

Some things are impossible to replace . . . Alex Voormann, an intense, cerebral thirty-year-old archaeologist, is married to the woman of his dreams—an intelligent, ambitious botanist named Isabel. When Isabel is killed by a reckless driver, Alex reluctantly agrees to donate her heart. Janet Corcoran, a young mother of two and an art teacher at an inner-city school in Chicago, is sick with heart disease. She is on the waiting list for a transplant, but her chances are slim. She watches the Weather Channel, ...

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Irreplaceable

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Overview

Some things are impossible to replace . . . Alex Voormann, an intense, cerebral thirty-year-old archaeologist, is married to the woman of his dreams—an intelligent, ambitious botanist named Isabel. When Isabel is killed by a reckless driver, Alex reluctantly agrees to donate her heart. Janet Corcoran, a young mother of two and an art teacher at an inner-city school in Chicago, is sick with heart disease. She is on the waiting list for a transplant, but her chances are slim. She watches the Weather Channel, secretly praying for foul weather and car crashes. The day Isabel dies, Janet gets her wish. So begins this extraordinary story about two families whose lives intersect forever in the aftermath of a tragic accident.

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Editorial Reviews

Luanne Rice
"Irreplaceable is tender and dear. It explores the mystery and vagaries of life, with such gentle understanding of the way things can fall apart in an instant and, just as suddenly, come together. Stephen Lovely knows the human heart."
Associated Press Staff
"Truly unique. [Lovely's] writing is thoughtful and keeps you plowing ahead to find out what else can come of a widower's grief and a mother's desperation. An utterly convincing portrait of people who have lost the person they love most in the world. It is a touching story."
The Columbus Dispatch
"Vividly realizes the casualties and rebirths that occur when an organ is donated after a fatal accident. Lovely explores the nature of grief and guilt, salvation and healing."
From the Publisher
"Truly unique. [Lovely's] writing is thoughtful and keeps you plowing ahead to find out what else can come of a widower's grief and a mother's desperation. An utterly convincing portrait of people who have lost the person they love most in the world. It is a touching story."—Associated Press

"Irreplaceable is tender and dear. It explores the mystery and vagaries of life, with such gentle understanding of the way things can fall apart in an instant and, just as suddenly, come together. Stephen Lovely knows the human heart."—Luanne Rice, author of Last Kiss

"Vividly realizes the casualties and rebirths that occur when an organ is donated after a fatal accident. Lovely explores the nature of grief and guilt, salvation and healing."—The Columbus Dispatch

Publishers Weekly

Lovely's debut novel, a touching journey of the heart, tracks what happens to two Midwestern families after a death and a gift of life. Archeologist Alex Voormann and his plant biologist wife, Isabel, had a pleasant enough life in Iowa until Isabel was struck and killed while riding her bicycle. Alex reluctantly complies with her wish to be an organ donor, which saves the life of Janet Corcoran, a 34-year-old Chicago art teacher and mother of two. Lovely thoughtfully weaves the tales of these two families together, tracing the realities of love and loss of all kinds as Alex attempts to move on, the man who was driving the truck that killed Isabel begins popping up in unexpected places, and Janet seeks out Alex and Isabel's mother to thank them and express her guilt and empathy. Lovely does a great job of staying out of sappy melodrama as the gravity of Isabel's death pulls the cast together in memorable fashion. The delicate handling of loaded material, attention to detail and depth of character make this a standout. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

The last thing in the world grieving Iowa widower Alex Voorman wants is to hear from the woman who now has his wife's heart. It's been a year since his beloved Isabel was killed in a truck/bicycle accident, and he's barely moving on. Close to his mother-in-law, Bernice, he resents her push for him to speak with Chicagoan Janet Corcoran, who was near death until she received Isabel's heart. First-time novelist Lovely writes unflinchingly of the medical and emotional realities that attend a heart transplant and the terrible toll it can take on recipients and their families, who are desperate to stop worrying, and the donors' loved ones, who will never stop grieving. First novelist Lovely throws into the mix a couple of over-the-top elements, including the truck driver, a disturbed young man whose intrusion into the lives of the two families adds a tension that goes a bit too far as the novel draws to its powerful close. Still, Lovely's sensitive handling of families going from catastrophe to something that looks like normal bodes well for a long, rich career. Strongly recommended.
—Beth E. Andersen

Kirkus Reviews
Iowa City resident Lovely's first novel is an overwrought, often excruciating exploration of the ironies unleashed by a young woman's decision to donate her organs. Isabel, a botanist, is riding her bike up a hill on a blustery Iowa spring day. At the crest, a gust forces her into the wrong lane, just in time to collide head-on with a pickup truck driven by Jasper, an aspiring blues guitarist and all around ne'er-do-well. As Isabel lies brain-dead in the hospital, her organs are harvested as her mother, Bernice, and husband, Alex, keep horrified vigil. In Chicago, Janet, whose myopathic heart is failing, is the designated recipient of Isabel's heart. A year after Isabel's death, Alex's grief is still raw, but he's comforted by his kinship with Bernice. He's disturbed when Janet's thank-you notes become outright demands for friendship. Bernice, whose closeness to Alex is threatened by a new girlfriend, welcomes chatty e-mails from Janet's mother Lotta. Post-transplant, Janet returns to teaching troubled youth, while coping with her two boisterous children. Her workaholic lawyer husband David, who lacks caregiving genes, withdraws. Jasper, whose characterization is the most problematic in the novel, morphs from feckless screw-up-he's underemployed and underappreciated at Best Buy-to a stalker who's bent on forcing Alex, Bernice and Janet to acknowledge his "role" in the heart donation. Although acquitted at trial, Jasper, sole surviving witness to the accident, withheld one piece of crucial incriminating evidence-he was driving while dialing. In the sections devoted to Jasper, the writer's contempt for him is palpable. Because he killed Isabel he's already the obvious villain-the moredaunting challenge, ducked here, was to make him an identifiably flawed human. In the absence of a plot, the action is driven largely by Alex's ruminations, many voiced in long stretches of eloquent but repetitive speechifying. Despite evocative prose throughout, this morality tale never achieves dramatic lift-off.
John Dalton
"You may think you know the drama at the center of this accomplished debut novel: the agony and the joy that attends a heart transplant operation. Please, think again. Stephen Lovely has imagined his way deep into to the lives of his characters and evoked their varied experiences with remarkable insight and eloquence. In his sure hands it's all been made new the desperate grief, the wonder of a reclaimed life. Irreplaceable is a rich, poignant and powerful book."
Ann Hood
"Stephen Lovely's debut novel is wise, heartbreaking, funny, and human in every possible way. In this debut novel, he manages to humanize the sterile world of heart transplants, the faceless victims and lucky receivers of their organs, and the families who are touched forever by happenstance. Irreplaceable is unforgettable. I simply love this book."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401341213
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 2/9/2010
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,469,795
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Lovely is the director of the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio and a graduate of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He lives in Iowa City with his girlfriend, a photographer. They have 3 dogs and 3 cats. Stephen enjoys reading, gardening, operas, and – for some reason he’s at a loss to explain – football.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Wow! What a wonderfully well-written offering for a debut novel . . .

    I'm not sure how I was drawn to this book and decided to bring it home with me - I still wonder about that, but sure am glad I did. This author has proven himself exceptionally gifted in humanizing the emotional story of a heart transplant and those it involved. The last chapter and epilogue totally undid me, as I had managed to keep it together during other difficult passages. Stephen Lovely has shown his potential and I cannot wait to read his next book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 29, 2010

    Awesome book, awesome author!

    I read this book because it was on the list for my book club. I found myself not being able to put it down and becoming completely engrossed in it! After reading the first couple of chapters I thought I had an idea of how the book was going to turn out but it wasn't that way at all! The characters were developed very well and there weren't so many that I had a hard time keeping track of who's who like I sometimes do. To top it off, the author came to our book club the night we discussed the book. If I hadn't read the book before I had met him, I definitely would have afterwards! Can't wait for his next one!

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    Irreplaceable by Steven Lovely

    Mr. Lovely must have experience with losing his soulmate. There are passages in this book that can only come from the heart of a grieving spouse or significant other. He is sensitive and compassionate. I found the idea of an organ recepient forming a relationship with the donor's family a little out there, but he explores the emotions of the characters and presents them as real. The "what if" aspect of the plot is thought provoking however, and that's a good thing!

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  • Posted May 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    well written

    Poignant story of 2 families, and the hard decision of releasing your loved ones heart to another after a tragic accident. The donor's choice, but those that are left behind follow through with her wishes and the story unfolds. At times a bit slow, not over-sappy, and descriptive as well, almost graphically so, describing the surgical procedure. In the beginning, not so drawn to the characters but then they begin to grow on you. Truly didn't want the book to end but does so in quite a touching way. Maybe I will be a donor after all!

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  • Posted February 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Truly Heartbreaking

    In Stephen Lovely's debut novel, he delves into the hearts and minds of his characters in the aftermath of the tragic death of Isabel, a young botanist. In the prologue, we meet Isabel riding her bicycle in a race to arrive home before a threatening storm breaks. The author does a wonderful job of building up the sense of urgency on Isabel's part. A truck cresting the hill does not see her in time and the inevitable happens. The story goes back and forth in time and gives the reader deeper insight as to the circumstances before and after the accident.It also details in a very well written manner the ripple effects to all directly involved and extending to their families.<BR/><BR/> Alex, the grieving widower is having not only a hard time with the fact that he lost his wife so tragically, but the fact that she was an organ donor, never having been comfortable with the idea of pieces of his wife being parceled out to others. Isabel's mother, on the other hand, takes comfort in the fact that somewhere out there, Isabel's heart is still beating. This is really at the crux of the matter. Alex seems to resent the fact that he has suffered so much for someone else's gain. Add in the heart recipient and all the angst associated with being in need of an organ donation, the upset to normal family life and marriage, you have the recipe for a story of intense feelings. One more ingredient to stir the plot is the addition of the truck driver, who in order to assuage his guilt, begins to think the recipient should be grateful to him, for the accident that took one life has now saved hers. Even though the donor program is supposed to be confidential, somehow the people involved learn of each other's existence and that is when the multitude of complex problems begin. <BR/><BR/>I found this a really interesting novel seeing the perspective of the characters from both sides of the accident. It was very difficult for me to fathom why some of them felt the way they did, especially the involvement of the truck driver. Lovely managed to explore these feelings from all angles and they were revealed via flashback mode in a plot that was truly intriguing. Not only did I want to find out what happened to Alex but also the family members of the recipient. There were several spots that were a little wordy, especially describing the heart donor process, but other than that, the book totally held my attention and was extremely well written. I would recommended reading this novel for book clubs as I think there are numerous avenues of discussion that could be taken. I really liked the book and rate it 4****.

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  • Posted February 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Wrenching.

    Isabel is riding home on her bicycle when she is struck by a car. She had elected to be an organ donor and once she was declared brain dead, her husband Alex gives permission for her organs to be harvested. The rest of the story takes place about a year after this event with Alex dealing with the intense grief and loneliness that he feels. He spends time with Isabel's mother Bernice and they both are a bit lost without Isabel. Into this dynamic comes Janet, the recipient of Isabel's heart. Despite the fact that the hospitals and all the organizations that handle the transplant process make it very difficult for donors and receivers to connect, Janet had managed to find Isabel's family and makes contact. <BR/><BR/>Bernice welcomes the idea of Janet and her efforts to contact the family while Alex is justifiably angry and reluctant for such a connection. Though he does not necessarily dislike Janet, he resents her efforts to insert herself into his life. Her life meant Isabel's death and that is a fact that he cannot overcome. He deeply feels the unfairness of the fact that Janet lives while Isabel had to die. Alex feels that it is selfish to have Janet continue to force contact with him. When Bernice chastises him for not welcoming Janet with open arms telling him that it would be easier for her to have not called, Alex disagrees and believes that it would have been harder for her not to have called. Its like she needs his forgiveness to feel better about the whole process. Personally, I agreed with Alex's assessment of the situation. I too felt that Janet imposed herself on Alex and did not give him enough time to heal. Alex lost the person he loved most in the world and a year later he is being emotionally blackmailed into associating with the woman who received her heart. Maybe Janet meant well but I found her actions selfish and very self centered. I felt sorry for Alex because he was not allowed his grief but instead made to feel like he was a traitor to his wife's memory by not wanting to embrace the woman who was now carrying her heart. <BR/><BR/>As much as I enjoyed this book, I failed to connect with any of the characters. I did not particularly like Janet though I empathized with her for the illness that made her require a new heart. I felt sorry for Bernice but I was disappointed with her role in forcing Alex to hurry his greiving process and make contact with Janet. And though I understood Alex's plight, I also failed to connect with him past my sorrow at his loss and my understanding of how he felt as regards Janet. I think that especially in the case of Alex I was unable to form a bond with him because of the overarching sense of loss, loneliness, sadness and grief that shrouded everyone in this novel. Everyone was sad (justifiably so) and I never really got to know them beyond this emotion. <BR/><BR/>The book is very well written and is able to convey raw pain in a way that leaves you somewhat drained. It humanizes the organ donation process from being just another medical process to the real emotion felt on both sides. We see the way in which people who yesterday had ordinary lives today find themselves afflicted by disease or death of a loved one. For them its not business as usual, its devasting and wrenching. I really liked this book. Toward the end I felt that it began to drag a bit but all in all, it was a very good read.

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    Posted August 16, 2010

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    Posted September 10, 2010

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    Posted April 29, 2009

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    Posted March 14, 2010

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