The Heart of It All

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Although it seems that Christian Kiefer is a man of many talents, avocations, responsibilities and interests, he self-defines as a novelist. One can clearly see, however, that his interest in music contributes to the rhythm, pace and vibrancy of his prose. THE HEART OF IT ALL is his fourth novel and one that is clearly up to date in terms of its politics and consciousness of a renewed focus on local community. Kieffer crafts vignettes about the townspeople in an economically dying town in Ohio — although it could be Anywhere, USA. From the moment we meet the main character, Tom Bailey, we are pushed into anxiety about the future of his marriage, his children, his co-workers and the struggling town. In much the same way as George Bailey in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, who is thrown off course by the illness of his daughter, Zuzu, Tom and his family have been devastated by the death of their infant son. The book opens with a vivid description of Tom receiving the “death casseroles” offered by his neighbors and friends after the funeral.

The reader’s anxiety is not relieved by the focus on other townspeople. Each of them, in their own way, struggles with low wage jobs, no jobs, loss and its attendant grief. As engaging as these intertwined stories are, the main focus is the exquisite words used by the novelist in bringing us into hyperreality about his characters’ situations and trials. I had to bring my dictionary to the story and was enriched because of it. Do not fear the presence of current politics in this book; it is a loving tribute to family and community strengthened by adversity.

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Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 368 pages
Publisher Melville House
Publish Date 12-Sep-2023
ISBN 9781685890810 Buy this Book
Issue October 2023
Category Popular Fiction