The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae

by Stephanie Butland


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For fans of Josie Silver's One Day in December, The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae is a wholly original, charismatic, and uplifting novel that no reader will soon forget.

Ailsa Rae is learning how to live. She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that—just in time—saved her life. Now, finally, she can be a normal twenty-eight-year-old. She can climb a mountain. Dance. Wait in line all day for tickets to Wimbledon.

But first, she has to put one foot in front of the other. So far, things are as bloody complicated as ever. Her relationship with her mother is at a breaking point and she wants to find her father. Then there's Lennox, whom Ailsa loved and lost. Will she ever find love again?

Her new heart is a bold heart. She just needs to learn to listen to it. From the hospital to her childhood home, on social media and IRL, Ailsa will embark on a journey about what it means to be, and feel, alive. How do we learn to be brave, to accept defeat, to dare to dream?

From Stephanie Butland, author of The Lost for Words Bookshop, The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae will warm you from the inside out.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250217011
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/29/2019
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 1,120,650
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 5.40(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

STEPHANIE BUTLAND lives with her family near the sea in the North East of England. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and when she's not writing, she trains people to think more creatively. For fun, she reads, knits, sews, bakes, and spins. She is an occasional performance poet and the author of The Lost for Words Bookshop.

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The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Madm007 13 days ago
It took me a bit to finally get into reading this, not quite sure what to expect. A very moving emotional journey of a person living, expected to die, being treated differently all her life. With the much anticipated, do or die, transplant at age 28, everything changes and her discovery of being "normal" isn't quite what she thought. She is however participating, not just watching, life in all its glory, including the many ups and downs. I laughed, cried, held my breath, or got angry right along with all the characters. I, myself, would have felt better, as I read to find the HEAs that real life certainly doesn't guarantee for anyone, if this would've had a more uplifting end. I'm kind of adrift right now, tho it's not a cliffhanger, I didn't get that happy sigh of relief moving forward, planning a lifetime! I'll stop right there, that's what I'm missing from the last pages. Happy to be a registered organ donor for several years now, I do believe, "The Curious Heart Of Ailsa Rae" brings forth the true need, very eloquently and emotionally, no matter it's fiction, this could well be someone's real story. But I'll forever wonder what became of Ailsa and Seb's blossoming love or was it the circumstance? I received an ARC thru Netgalley and am providing my honest review.
cloggiedownunder 14 days ago
“It’s as though she has been given permission to look out of a window that has always been forbidden to her before: she cannot believe how far away the horizon is, how beautiful the view.” The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae is the fifth novel by British author, Stephanie Butland. Ailsa Rae knows that reaching the age of twenty-eight with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome is remarkable. Of the fact that she will soon die without a transplant, she’s hyper-aware. But yes, someone else’s misfortune saves her life, and eventually, sporting a new heart, and loaded up with anti-rejection medication, she is discharged from hospital to start properly living. The joy of this is bittersweet: her best friend/ex-boyfriend, Lennox died waiting for a liver some months earlier. With HLHS, Ailsa’s life was an equation: “I had two questions – first: Can I manage it?; and second: Can I be bothered to recover from it? There are quite a lot of equations in illness, I think, and this is one of the straightforward ones. Does effort plus impact equal value?” Now of course, she can do so much, and she keenly feels the obligation both to look after her new heart and to spend her unexpectedly gained time in a worthwhile manner. Naturally, life is very different when Ailsa no longer has death looming over her. It takes her quite some time to adjust, to understand that she now has a future to plan for: a home, a job, a career, maybe even a love life. Nor is Ailsa the only one affected: her mother, Hayley has spent twenty-eight years protecting her frail daughter from all possible danger, and it isn’t painless to let go: “Ailsa had been an injured bird, and her mother was the cupped hands that protected her. It might not be as easy as she thinks to fly.” Butland uses several different formats to deliver the story: the straight narrative runs from October 2017 onwards, with occasional revisits to twelve months previous; this is supplemented by Ailsa’s (award-winning) blog (myblueblueheart), emails, transcripts of radio and blog interviews, web articles, and, ultimately, a letter to her donor. The dialogue she gives her characters s often witty and entertaining. Many times, Ailsa’s blog has a poll for her followers to vote (with the result shown) on various issues, or decisions she needs to make: simple things (outfits to wear to an interview?); and those more complicated (track down the father who abandoned her at birth?). She explains it thus: “’I feel a bit adrift, sometimes. I like the wisdom of strangers.’ ‘But no one knows you as well as you, surely?’ ‘Honestly? Not this me. I knew ill me pretty well.’” Ailsa is clever and honest and insightful: she can be quite self-aware and self-deprecating. Butland uses her protagonist to raise topics and issues that might not occur to those unfamiliar with transplant recipients: the massive change in priorities from when one is dying to when one has a future; the expectation to always be feeling happy/lucky; and how to express their (obviously deep and heartfelt) gratitude. “We say ‘thank you’ a hundred times a week, for coffee or change or to someone who puts us through to a helpdesk. Using the same words for this feels invalid.” Funny, moving and thought-provoking, a wonderful read! This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and St Martins Press
Splashesintobooks1 2 hours ago
Wow, wow, wow!!! This is such a different but emotive read, so moving! It tells the story of Alisa Rae, who was born with a genetic heart condition that could have killed her within days of being born. However, repeated operations and treatments mean she's now twenty-eight years old and needs a heart transplant to save her life. Her experiences are shared via blog extracts, emails and first person narrative. The whole experience is brought to life in this brilliant story. If you'd live your life for 28 years having to protect your malfunctioning heart, what would you want to do if it was replaced? This story shares Alisa's emotions and experiences in the first year from having the transplant as she cautiously but with growing courage endeavours to live with her new heart. It is a superb tale of growing up, learning not to be protected, daring to make plans for the future, trying new things, loss and love. It is a dire situation but it is explored with humour, determination and hope, making this a very moving and positive read, one that I hope will encourage everyone to discuss things with their family and go on the donor register to help others like Alisa and Seb should something happen to you. I requested and was gifted a copy of this superb book and this is my honest review after choosing to read it.
Fredreeca2001 1 days ago
Ailsa is struggling. She has had multiple surgeries throughout her short life. And now, with a heart transplant, she can start living. But, can she do it? She has been sheltered and kept at home. Can she actually start living the life she has always hoped for? 
Ailsa is a blogger. She has blogged about her multiple surgeries and her heart transplant. She is asked to do an interview about the importance of the transplant list. This leads her to Sebastian. She and Sebastian become good friends. And then they become more. But, because her medication, Ailsa has put on some pounds. The internet and journalists bully her on line because for her weight. No one can believe Sebastian would be dating her. 
 There are multiple story lines in this novel...The mystery of Ailsa father, her life as a transplant patient, and her life as a "sort of" celebrity. Her strength and resilience are astounding. Her ability to overcome and keep going through ALL her issues really amazed me. 
A heartwarming novel of courage and tenacity. Do not miss this one! 
I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.
Lindsey Brown 6 days ago
My thoughts on this novel are generally positive – it wreaked havoc on my emotions making me laugh, cry, and generally content. It provides a gripping fictional account of a heart transplant survivor who needs to learn how to live again. It tackles the frailties of being a patient staring death in the face, the emotional repercussions of survival, and the nuances of relationships after a literal life-changing event -sussing out the events life and love, family and friends. It’s the telling of Ailsa’s journey to ordinary after an extraordinary experience. It’s clever and charming with a streak of no BS and I absolutely loved all the characters. Each one has flaws, personality, and something to love. The novel as a whole is both uneasy and affecting. You will feel everything Ailsa feels. The author has done a remarkable job of taking a serious issue and making it lighthearted, yet impactful. Reader discretion advised for: language (it’s not all squeaky clean) and a couple of other elements. I could definitely look beyond them in the greater scope of the novel – maybe not necessary, but they were just little blips on my radar thinking that others in my book-reading network are pickier than I might be. Overall, this one didn’t follow my typical formula and perhaps isn’t even something I would have picked up off a library shelf. That said, it was a definite win and I’m glad I took a chance when requesting it for a preread. Delightful from cover-to-cover. I was provided with a complimentary early digital version via NetGalley with my thanks to the publisher and author. All opinions are my own.
whatsbetterthanbooks 10 days ago
Moving, inspiring, and heartfelt! The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae is a pensive, tender novel that takes us into the life of the courageous, optimistic Ailsa Rae who after living a sheltered, timid life due to a congenital heart defect is struggling to recover, adapt, relearn, and become more adventurous after a heart transplant saves her life. The writing is direct and sincere. The characters are charming, authentic, and amusing. And the plot using an intriguing mixture of narration, letters, newspaper articles, blog posts, and emails is a delightfully witty, bittersweet tale about life, love, loss, family, friendship, self-discovery, happiness, and taking chances. Overall, The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae is a thought-provoking, romantic, touching tale by Butland that does an exceptional job of highlighting the demand, necessity, and importance of organ donation, and has just the right amount of laughs, tears, endearing characters, and heartfelt storyline to be completely absorbing.
Loy3 10 days ago
This was an interesting book. A young girl need a heart transplant. The book is written through her blog and emails. II am sure it will be interesting for a younger audience. The first half was mostly the set up and the second half more interaction with people. I enjoyed the second part. The writing style is different and well written.
kimreadsstuff 11 days ago
Unsure of how to review this. The plot was interesting, and the story was good overall but the characters were a right mess. No way were these two lead characters nearing thirty. Both Seb and Ailsa acted like tweens, not even teens. Ok so Ailsa has a bit of a pass seeing as she spent her life in and out of hospitals, but surely going to uni and having what she described as a basically normal life otherwise would have helped her to act more like a twenty eight year old and less like a confused eleven year old. Seb has no excuse really, he’s your typical narcissistic bro. I was not surprised at all by the video that went round, since he acted like a secret jerk through most of the book really. For these reasons the pairing didn’t sit well with me. Ailsa just seemed to fawn over Seb because “omg why would he be interested in little ole me!” And let’s face it Hayley was no help at all here. It really felt like Ailsa had no one in her corner. I suppose that’s related to her need to ask the internet to make most decisions for her. Something I also found shocking as an adult. When her friends and family tried to point out how crazy that was, it seemed tween Ailsa would just pout and stamp her feet. Just not for me I guess. It wasn’t a terrible read but I could not stand Ailsa as a character.
lauriesophee 12 days ago
An interesting journey of a young woman who receives a new heart. She now must learn how to "live" after being able to only "survive" since she was an infant. This book helps to understand the desperate need of organ donation and the importance of this selfless act. Ailsa who was able to obtain her needed organ, but also has survivors guilt when her friend does not get the liver he needs to live. A quick book that definitely has humor mixed in with sadness.
Deanne Patterson 13 days ago
Ailsa Rae has spent her life in and out of hospitals and living in fear. In fear of what? See it's her heart, she's been afraid it will give out on her. She's become weaker and weaker and she was dying. She receives a transplant just in time. You become invested in her life and care what happens. She's been taken care of by her mother who has devoted her life to her daughter's care and this causes a closeness of the women but her mother hovers and doesn't really seem to be able to break the bond when she doesn't need the level of care she originally did. Alisa just wants to live a little, be a normal twenty something year old. Dancing,mountain climbing,activities she held herself back from doing when she was unable to. Before she can do all this she needs to learn to put one foot in front of the other and conquer her fears about starting to life to it's fullest potential again. Then there's the part about her wanting to find her father who her mother doesn't seem to want to talk about. An avid blogger she lets her social media polls help to direct her life. Entertaining,charismatic and eye opening you will remember this for a long time. Published October 29th 2019 by St. Martin's Griffin. I was given a complimentary copy of this book. Thank you. All opinions expressed are my own.
Shelley-S-Reviewer 13 days ago
I very much enjoyed and highly recommend this page-turner, especially for anyone looking for the perfect romantic read. The story is well-crafted, engaging and extremely credible - as are the multi-faceted characters. I particularly enjoyed the way the story unfolds, being told via switching time frames, cleverly revealing the truth without being predictable and bringing everything to an ending that is satisfying without seeming forced and unlikely. This book has all the ingredients for a really enjoyable read: it is well written, the plot keeps up the tension throughout, it was believable and it addressed a few issues along the way without being too obvious about it. Stephanie Butland writes with such fluidity, that this novel was an absolute delight to read. The wonderful writing showcased an elaborate web that Ms. Butland wove together beautifully. Ailsa Rae is such a complex individual, and is yet somehow relatable on so many levels. I found myself cheering her on throughout the story. I'm very much looking forward to reading more from this author.
RWBrock 13 days ago
This was simply wonderful! Beautiful, insightful writing, wonderful characters and ALL the emotions! Ailsa is a 28 yo heart transplant recipient who has lived under threat of death since birth. We’re beside her as she navigates her new normal...the ups and downs, the losses and gains as she finds herself and reexamines her closest relationships. Heartwarming, heartbreaking, hilarious, and illuminating. Thanks to #StMartinsPress and #NetGalley for the ARC. The opinions are strictly my own.
LHill2110 13 days ago
Edinburgh resident Ailsa is not your typical heroine — born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, it’s a miracle she has made it the age of 28. As the book opens, she is rapidly winding down until she is given the miracle of a matching donor heart. This is the funny, insightful, and intimate story of what happens to someone who suddenly gets to think about a future she never thought she would have. Ailsa is a blogger. She blogs as BlueHeart — named for the constant bluish tint to her skin due to lack of oxygen. To make the blog more interactive (and to ease the burden of choice from her own shoulders) she polls her large community of followers whenever she needs to make a decision. Post-transplant polls lead her to tango classes, a trip to London to help a new (and pretty sexy) “friend,” and an exciting role in an Edinburgh Fringe Festival gig. Told through blog posts, emails, and narrative, we follow Ailsa through her adventures of coming to life and forming a relationship with her brand-new heart. Funny, heartfelt, and deeply philosophical, this book took me on a journey I never expected to make (and hope to never have to in real life).
Noire 13 days ago
I received an ARC of this book to read in exchange for a fair review. The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland is a women’s fiction novel about a young woman who receives a heart transplant. Ailsa Rae was born with a 3 chambered heart and she writes a blog called Blue Heart about her experiences waiting for a heart transplant. When your entire life is focused on staying alive suddenly having a heart that works changes everything. Ailsa needs to find out who she is when she is not the sick girl anymore, when she gets to be the one making the decisions and learns to be a grown up and independent from her mother who has devoted her life to keeping Ailsa alive. Things that she could never do before such as riding a bus and taking a dance class, getting a job open up new adventures and responsibilities. I enjoyed reading this book very much and highly recommend it. Publishing Date October 29, 2019 #NetGalley #StMartinsPress #StMartinsGriffin #WomensFiction #TheCuriousHeartOfAilsaRae #StephanieButland #bookstagram
gmcootie 13 days ago
There is not much to say about this book except that it is the sweetest, most interesting book I have read in a long time. It is a delightful story with serious overtones and deep, rich characters. You should go and read it right now. The beginning is absolutely stunning. It really grabbed me, because I had no idea what to expect. I was charmed by Alisa from the start. She has been waiting for a heart for a long time. Her world has gotten smaller and smaller and more restricted and limited. She depends on her mother for nearly everything. When she gets a new heart, she has to learn to live instead of preparing to die. Wanting to be independent and wanting to meet the father that abandoned her and her mother the minute the going got tough puts a strain on her relationship with her mother. Is it worth it to take these risks? Alisa has a blog and for a long time has deferred her big life decisions to her follower’s votes. Should she continue to do that or is it time to take charge of her own life and rely on her new, strong heart? This book was just a simple joy to read. It soars and falls and made me cry and made me laugh. Her budding romance is tentative and bold at the same time. It was a pleasure to take the journey with Alisa and her friends and family as she learns to navigate life with a new, very curious heart. Thanks to St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley for providing a copy of The Curious Heart of Alisa Rae. All opinions are my own. I loved this book and recommend it without hesitation.
JChris 13 days ago
I have to say that I struggled with reading the first half/third of this book. I think it was written with an much younger audience in mind, than me, of my 60 years. That part of the book is written in the form of emails between people or showing the posts of a blog Ailse of the main character writes. I did not like this format and it was very difficult for me to get into the plot of the book or care about the characters. Ailsa was born with a serious heart condition and has never been able to live her life fully. She lives for the moment, since having a future was never an option. Her biological father left the scene when she was born. Her mother stood by her and did almost everything in her power to protect Ailsa. (I say almost, since there is an obvious habit the mother has that she should have quit, but did not.) The book revolves around Ailsa's heart condition and her need for a heart transplant, and then her life after receiving a heart. Much of the book seemed to me to be a public service announcement about organ transplants. That is not a bad thing, I just would have liked to have known that prior to reading the book. So that being said, the second part of the book, which was more face to face interaction and dialogue, I enjoyed very much. Once Ailsa took control of her life, made decisions on her own and tried to make a future for herself, the story was easy for me to read. I am giving the book 4 stars due to my overall feelings of the book. I think the author did an amazing job to tell the story, just not in my taste for part of the book. I hope the dialog of organ donation is discussed more openly as a result of this book.
Reader4102 13 days ago
Ailsa Rae was born with a broken heart – her blood didn’t provide it with enough oxygen to operate properly. She had several surgeries early on, but nothing was fixed. She did manage to have something of a life as a teenager and then graduated from college, but then things got worse and she was put on the transplant list. As BlueHeart, she blogged about her life and how she was unlikely to receive a heart. She got to the point that she would ask her readers to help her make choices. And she won an award for the blog. Then, a heart was given to her and she survived the surgery to implant it in her chest. When she leaves the hospital she needs to decide what she should do with her life. The author has written sensitively about transplant issues; for instance, Ailsa knows that in order for her to live, someone must die. The characters are well-drawn and likable and the tension between mother and daughter as Ailsa begins to move away from needing her mother is very well written. Ailsa’s relationship with Sebastian is sweet and funny as they get to know one another. The emails they exchange are clever and humorous. In the hands of a less talented author, this book could have been maudlin, intentionally tugging on the readers’ heartstrings, but this is not that kind of book or she could have become preachy about the need for all of us to carry a donor card. She did neither of those things. This a straight-forward written story of getting a second chance at life and what her character does with that gift. If you like well-written books with likable characters, then this is the book for you. It deserves to be high on your list of books to be read. Thanks to St. Martin’s Griffin and Edelweiss for an eARC.
Claire140 13 days ago
I loved this book, it was sad, funny and happy in various parts, and just got better as the book went on and Ailsa developed more confidence in her new heart and her life in general. Ailsa has been ill since a baby with a serious heart problem that, had she been born only a short while before, would have killed her with no hope of a future. But as it was the doctors had been helping her live, but with her gradually getting weaker and bluer, resulting in the need for a new heart if they could find a suitable donor for her. Luckily for Ailsa she received a new heart just in time and slowly starts to recover. But having been ill and looked after by her Mother and the doctors for so long there is a big adjustment to make for Ailsa to start living a more 'normal' life again. Her Mother finds it very hard to step back a bit and there is quite a bit of tension between them as Ailsa slowly gains confidence, especially when she decides she wants to live on her own, and also to contact her Father who abandoned them both when Ailsa was a baby. Whilst Ailsa has been ill she has been writing an internet blog trying to help other people in her situation and always has a poll at the end of each posting, asking for peoples opinions on a certain topic she's struggling with at the time. As the story unfolds Ailsa slowly starts to trust her new heart more (nicknamed 'Apple') and starts to be braver, helped by her followers, starting tango lessons etc. She is also interviewed about her blog on the radio and meets the lovely actor Seb, and they slowly get to get closer through various charity/acting/tango events they both get involved with, not without their hiccups of course, but the relationship developed slowly as they helped each other out along the way. Very enjoyable and uplifting story about learning to live again after a chronic, life threatening illness. I'm glad to read that the law is shortly changing in England and Scotland so that people can opt out of organ donation now, instead of trying to get people to opt in which is always harder. If you or a loved one can help someone else live a better life after a death then why on earth wouldn't you do it, as hard as I understand it may be for some relatives at the time. Very thought provoking - loved it.
Rita0285 13 days ago
This is a story about a girl that needs a heart transplant. She talks about how she coped with the before and after of the new heart. Lots of emotions tangled up with the people and doctors in her life. It’s a touching story that really pulls on your own heart.
Rachel_Denise01 13 days ago
The Curious Heart of Alisa Rae by Stephanie Butland is to me a “coming of age story” or a”second chance at life story” for late 20s Alisa. This is a light read and almost feels like a YA story, however the character is almost 30. In some respects she is still a young adult in the fact that the growth of most of her adult life has been stunted and in limbo due to the fact that she was dealing with the deterioration of a congenital cardiac birth defect. Receiving life-altering surgery, Alisa now has a new life to live. Dealing with the complete change of now having all of these years ahead of you and not knowing what to do with this time, is a blessing but a challenge as well. This book deals with Alisa’s new path and the changes of her relationships in respect to that. The complex relationship she has with her mother, Hayley is added to the mix, as well as other relationships in Alisa’s life. The book is written as Alisa in that she is the main character, however it is not just written inside Alisa’s head, but also through her blog (which is her outlet during this time), as well as email correspondence. The shaking up of the format added an interesting twist. All in all a good read with a good ending. 4/5 stars
BinBlogsBooks 14 days ago
An interesting story that pulls at your emotions, about a young heart transplant recipient trying to enter into adulthood after years of chronic illness. An overall good read. Thanks, NetGalley, for an advances copy for an honest review.