The Heart Keeper

The Heart Keeper

by Alex Dahl


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The Heart Keeper 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
JHSEsq 5 months ago
Alison is grieving the loss of her only child, Amalie, who drowned a few months ago at the age of five. She is riddled with guilt about Amalie's tragic passing, and her marriage to Sindre is falling apart. Alison and Sindre donated Amalie's organs and, as the story progresses, Alison learns the identity of the little girl who received Amalie's heart, with whom Alison becomes increasingly obsessed and detached from reality. Author Alex Dahl unsparingly and bravely explores the anguish Alison experiences after the loss of Amalie, describing the pain she is experiencing, as well as her futile attempts to numb that pain. Sindre is mourning Amalie, along with Alison. A former soldier, his grief manifests in very different ways. He is emotionally distant and removed, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and unraveling, as well. Sindre's teenage son, Oliver, is a victim of circumstances -- neither Sindre nor Alison can the strength and support he needs. Dahl portrays strain Kaia's illness has placed on Iselin, especially as a single mother lacking an effective support system. Iselin has been unable to work because of the demands of caring for Kaia, relegated to surviving on the income she receives from the government. Iselin has prepared herself to say good-bye to Kaia many times, and the joy of learning that her daughter now has a chance at life is tempered by the knowledge that her joy was only made possible by another family's tragedy. The story's tension escalates as Oliver announces that his class learned about transplants and the phenomenon known as cellular memory. Since every cell in the human body holds an individual's complete genetic material, is it possible that transplanted organ's hold the donor's memories? Or that the donor's personal characteristics manifest in the recipient? Alison, a journalist, researches the topic, and becomes obsessed with finding the donor who received Amalie's heart. Circumstances conspire to reveal Kaia's identity to Oliver, who shares the information with Alison. From there, her obsession with finding out whether any aspect of her daughter lives on in Kaia grows stronger, and Alison engages in increasingly deranged, reckless behavior that includes befriending Iselin and Kaia. Dahl increases the story's pace incrementally as Alison learns that since the transplant Kaia has engaged in some behaviors that are eerily like things Amalie did. As Alison becomes increasingly unhinged, it is apparent that the result can be nothing short of catastrophic -- and her actions lead to a frightening climax. Dahl believably takes readers to the psychologically dark places her characters inhabit, making The Heart Keeper engrossing, raw and sometimes difficult reading. It is a beautifully crafted, believable exploration of the power of loss, and the myriad ways in which grief over the loss of a child can psychologically cripple parents and destroy marriages, especially if one parent feels responsible for the child's death. It is also a compassionate look at the toll being the caregiver for an ill child can take on a parent, and how the strain is enhanced if that parent is doing so on his or her own. Those two stories are compellingly interwoven into a fast-paced thriller that supplies a satisfying, rational conclusion. Thanks to NetGalley for an Advance Reader's Copy of the book.
LeslieLindsay 5 months ago
Delightfully dark story about two mothers and one little girl, about anger, grief, sadness, and more as the after-effects of organ donation. I loved this book! THE HEART KEEPER (forthcoming from Berkley, July 16 2019) is a raw, gut-wrenching read from critically acclaimed debut thriller writer, Alex Dahl (THE BOY AT THE DOOR, 2018). This harrowingly, gritty read follows a grief-stricken mother who is desperately trying to seek a way to overcome the pain of losing her beloved only child, Amalie, who drowned. Alison becomes disturbingly fixated on a the life of a small girl who becomes the donor recipient of her daughter's heart. She feels she can reconnect with her own daughter by becoming close to this little girl. On the surface, Alison , is an affluent middle-aged mother (to step-son), Oliver, and appears to have it all together--gleaming luxury SUV and attractive husband, nice home. But she doesn't have her daughter. She would do anything to get her back. We fall down a grim hole of mysterious interest and sinister intentions. Grief is a strange thing--it will cause even the most 'typical' person to come unraveled. Told in alternating POVs--between that of Alison and the donor girl's mother, Iselin, the narrative flow is intriguing and raw. The pace is somewhat slower than your 'typical' thriller and I probably wouldn't classify this as 'Scandinavian Noir,' but there are definitely elements of psych suspense, literary fiction, and medical mysteries. The writing is raw, authentic, and I felt a deep visceral and emotional pull. For me, the ending came a little abruptly but all events coalesced in an inevitable manner. I was particularly drawn to the sections of the human heart, and overall science of organ donation--though this is a small portion of the book. The focus is on how far will one grieving mother go to recapture the love and connection she once had with her daughter. Alex Dahl wow-ed me and has me wanting to her more of her work. 4.5 stars rounded up. Others may find some similarities between THE HEART KEEPER and Sharon Guskin's THE FORGETTING TIME meets YES MY DARLING DAUGHTER (Margaret Leroy), though these stories are largely based on childhood reincarnation, elements in writing and mother-daughter relationships cross-over. Others, still might find some connection with this work and that of Jodi Picoult, but I found THE HEART KEEPER more raw and mysterious. L.Lindsay|Always with a Book
CharlotteLynnsReviews 5 months ago
This book had me on the edge of my seat. Is Alison going to be able to move past losing her daughter? Is Iselin going to wake up and figure out what is happening in her life? While this book has a sad basis, the thriller part of the story is what really stood out. I knew the other shoe had to drop for Alison and that there was no way that the story would end up the way she wanted, yet I kinda, sorta, almost hoped it would. More so that I wanted her to be okay, to learn to live, and to learn to accept that Amalie was gone but parts of her were still alive and helping others live. I felt that The Heart Keeper was realistic to a point. A mother (and father) never get over the loss of a child and to know that parts of your child were still working in other bodies would be tough. I admire that they could make the decision to donate while mourning but I am not sure that they realized how hard it would be to keep living knowing this. Neither Alison or her husband were okay, they both were dealing with their loss in their own ways, and they were not able to help each other. They kept secrets, they hid their thoughts, and they just couldn’t cope. I was hooked, I couldn’t stop reading, and I kept hoping for an ending that all could live with. The story was heartbreaking and the characters were easily relatable.