The Law of Bound Hearts

The Law of Bound Hearts

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by Anne D. LeClaire

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With Entering Normal and Leaving Eden, Anne LeClaire brilliantly probed the interior lives of women–friends, mothers, daughters–bringing to vivid life the conflict, surprises, and resilience of their complex relationships. Now in her new novel, The Law of Bound Hearts, LeClaire focuses her gaze on sisters, with the same compassion,


With Entering Normal and Leaving Eden, Anne LeClaire brilliantly probed the interior lives of women–friends, mothers, daughters–bringing to vivid life the conflict, surprises, and resilience of their complex relationships. Now in her new novel, The Law of Bound Hearts, LeClaire focuses her gaze on sisters, with the same compassion, insight, and startling breadth of emotion.

Sisters Libby and Sam Lewis were inseparable as little girls, best friends and soul mates. But a terrible event during in their 30s completely shatters their tender connection. Now the sisters live entirely unconnected lives. Happily married, Libby manages a spotless household, clings to schedules, and maintains a vigorous exercise routine; a pastry chef who harbors no romantic delusions, Sam runs a successful decorative cake business out of her newly purchased Victorian home. Neither wishes to be the first to reach out and make amends–until a sobering turn of events forces action.

Libby discovers she has contracted a rare kidney disease that could end her life. A transplant will increase her chances for survival. Sam would be the ideal donor. But Libby is stubborn and unwilling to seek help from others. Much to the dismay of her husband, she is resolved to face her illness alone. Sam avoids the sentimental and refuses to allow Libby back in her life. Once she knows the truth, will Sam bury the past and reach out to her estranged sister?
Anne LeClaire’s The Law of Bound Hearts is an extraordinary story of family that lingers in the mind. It is a novel about courage, betrayal, and forgiveness that penetrates the very core of love.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Once again, Anne LeClaire has given life on the page to characters we care about, as if they were old friends. Here is the work of a natural-born storyteller.”
–JOYCE MAYNARD, author of The Usual Rules

“With a vision as wide as the tall grass prairie and prose as focused as a poem, Anne LeClaire reminds us how love can subvert the hardest and most stubborn of hearts, and that the ties that bind are not easily undone. An honest and tender ache of a story.”
–JUDITH RYAN HENDRICKS, author of Bread Alone

“Anne LeClaire has given us a realistic glimpse into the intricacies of family life: how the ties that bind can sometimes chafe and sometimes be a lifeline, how there are some bonds that are deeper than blood and run longer than history. The story of Sam and Libby rings so true, it’s hard to believe these aren’t women we’ve actually met.”
–JODI PICOULT, New York Times bestselling author of My Sister’s Keeper

The Law of Bound Hearts unfolds with such precision and power that it kept me turning pages way into the night, spellbound. Without sentimentality or preaching, Anne LeClaire captures perfectly the agony of estrangement and the ultimate redemption of forgiveness.”
–CASSANDRA KING, author of The Sunday Wife

The Law of Bound Hearts is a lovely novel whose characters surprise us with their humor and strength even in the midst of trouble and betrayal. Anne LeClaire writes dialogue that could come directly from our own real lives, with all the wit and humor and sorrow and love that life allows.”
–JOSEPHINE HUMPHREYS, author of Rich in Love

Publishers Weekly
Sisters Sam and Libby, although two years apart, were once as close as twins. Now, at 38 and 40, they haven't spoken in six years, and each has learned that "the future you'd planned for could be altered beyond imagination." At the start of this domestic drama by LeClaire (Entering Normal; Leaving Eden), Sam has become a successful pastry chef and proprietor of her own business. She's also tentatively involved in a new romance after a divorce left her brokenhearted. Libby, once a rebellious teen idolized by her younger sister, has been living a comfortable suburban life with her husband, Richard, a music professor with a trust fund. Then her world turns upside down when she is diagnosed with a rare kidney disease. Desperate for an organ donor, Libby breaks the silence with her sister. Will Sam, who's been called "stubborn as a mule in mud," forgive Libby for the role she played in Sam's divorce and respond to her sister's plea? LeClaire has a smooth touch, and Sam is winningly sweet, but uninspired dialogue and a paint-by-the-numbers plot make this tale of sisterly love and reconciliation slow going. Agent, Deborah Schneider. (Aug.) Forecast: LeClaire's track record and the no-surprises story makes this an easy choice for book clubs-targeted with author phone chats and outreach to Web sites-but even fans may be lukewarm. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Though estranged for six years, sisters Samantha (Sam), a 38-year-old divorced pastry chef, and Libby, the mother of twins and wife of a college music professor, are often in each other's thoughts. When Libby learns that she is suffering from kidney disease, she contacts Sam, at first to no avail. In her third novel, LeClaire (Entering Normal) highlights each woman's soul search in alternating chapters as the reader's curiosity grows. What caused the breach between them? Libby's fragile health forces her to reassess the meaning of her life. Meanwhile, Sam has fallen in love with a good man but is so damaged from both her divorce and her conflict with Libby that she doubts her own happiness. Though the plot has some taint of melodrama, LeClaire has crafted authentic characters and successfully portrays the power of forgiveness. Recommended for public library readers who enjoy Elizabeth Berg or Anita Shreve.-Keddy Ann Outlaw, Harris Cty. P.L., Houston, TX Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.75(d)

Read an Excerpt


Autumn finally came again. The world slowed down and the prairie air grew clear. As if this year were the same as any other, Elizabeth Barnett performed her annual chores. She shopped and packed and got the twins off to their respective colleges. She sorted and washed the summer cottons and packed them away. She replaced the batteries in all the smoke detectors and emptied and stored the terra-cotta planters that lined the front steps and back patio (twenty in all). She arranged with the yard service to rake and bag fallen leaves, to mulch the perennial beds against the coming winter. Days, functioning at a certain level of competence, she managed for the most part to fend off panic. Nights—when even sound became a fear—nights were different.

She woke to the clutch of panic in her throat, to a racing heart and sweat-dampened gown. It was a moment before she could breathe normally again. Even before she turned and slid her palm over the linen on Richard’s side of the bed, even before she touched the cool sheet, bereft of his body heat, she knew he was gone. His absence provoked in her commingled feelings of betrayal and relief, an emotional dichotomy typical of her lately. She wanted connection but pursued isolation, was obsessed with her illness but found refuge in denial, wanted the support and understanding of friends but refused to let Richard tell them she was sick.

Finally she rose and padded barefoot down the hall. His study door was ajar and she nudged it open an inch more. He had opened the drapes. Moonlight poured in, providing the room’s sole illumination. His back was to her, and there was a snifter of brandy at his side. He was listening to Bach. The Mass in B Minor, she recognized, always his selection when he was distressed: all through the frightful period of the twins’ pneumonia, through his denied tenure at Wesleyan, through her parents’ deaths, and Matt’s experiments with drugs the summer before his senior year.

These things, the crises of married life, they had handled together, had found strength in doing so. Why wouldn’t she allow it now? What would it cost her, after all, to cross the room, take his hand, let him console her and find the solace that comforting another can bring? Why couldn’t she permit this simple mutual comfort? Her illness, God knows, hadn’t been easy for Richard. Just that morning, he’d had to turn away to steady himself before picking up the syringe. From the beginning, although near phobic about needles, he had insisted on giving her the erythropoietin injections that were supposed to stimulate red cell production, this act his mute and nervous offering of love and support.

She tried to summon gratitude, tenderness, some trace of softness toward this man—her husband—who sat in moonlight with only Bach for comfort, but all she felt was fear, as if her emotional gearbox were fixed in one position. Although he never talked about it, she assumed Richard was afraid, too. What had her doctor, Carlotta, told her? When one system is diseased, it affects all the rest. As true of a family as of a body, she thought.

The flow of light through the windows suddenly reminded her of another night. Had it been only one year ago? It might as well have been a century. In that very room, she and Richard had lain naked in a moon pool. There had been music, as well, that night. Saint-Saëns? Or was it Schumann? She still confused one with the other. And brandy, too. And a hunger for each other they’d not experienced in a long time. It might have been farcical—their haste to strip, to bare their middle-aged flesh while their nearly adult children slept down the hall—but it had been lovely. She remembered that now. How lovely it had been, although she could not recall what precipitated their passion. They had just returned from a party; she did recall that. (Whose, she could not say for love or money. Another professor’s, she supposed. The college circuit pretty much defined their social life.) In that small mirror of lunar light, they had coupled and moaned like newlyweds, momentarily innocent of the knowledge that passion, like love, is friable and transient. In the morning, she’d had rug burns on her shoulders. When she showed them to Richard, he had blushed.

That couple was far distant tonight, as removed and illusory as a scene she might have read in a novel or seen on-screen. Now she knew too well the fragility of life, knew that in the breath of a second, the future you’d planned for could be altered beyond imagination. She thought about opening the door wider then, going in, taking his hand, asking him if he remembered that night. Instead she eased the door shut and retraced her steps to their room, walking carefully, as if the floor were made not of wood but of some thin and insubstantial substance, ice that at any moment might fracture, plunging her into brumal depths.

She would have liked to watch television and let the inanity of a late-night show wash over her until she was lulled to sleep, but she knew the sound would draw Richard. So she climbed into bed and drew up the duvet. Finally, feeling foolish, she tried something she had read about in a magazine she’d picked up in Carlotta’s waiting room. She pictured a white light, an amorphous glob, suspended overhead. She concentrated on it, pulled it toward her, imagined the feathery weight of it settling on her body. Was she doing it right? Were there special instructions she was forgetting? She wished she’d paid closer attention to the article. It was ridiculous anyway. If healing were accomplished as easily as that, doctors would be selling Chevys instead of driving around in Jags. Still, she continued. She visualized the light entering her body, washing through her, flooding blood and bone and tissue, then flowing to her kidneys, cleansing and healing each cell. Eventually she fell asleep.

In the morning, Richard slept at her side, his breathing heavy, just short of a snore. Today will be better, Libby promised herself as she looked over at him. She would practice patience, learn courage. She eased herself out of bed. He did not stir. On the way down to the kitchen, she paused at the door to his study. The drapes had been drawn again, the brandy glass rinsed and put away. Every trace of moonlight and music was gone from the air.

Meet the Author

Anne LeClaire is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Leaving Eden and Entering Normal. She is also a short story writer who teaches and lectures on writing and the creative process, and has worked as a radio broadcaster, a journalist, and a correspondent for The Boston Globe. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Redbook, and Yankee magazine among other publications. She is the mother of two adult children and lives on Cape Cod. Visit the author’s website at

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