Friday, February 21, 2014

Heart of the Country by Rene Gutteridge and John Ward

I have not seen the movie Heart of the Country but chose to read the novelization of the film when I saw Rene Gutteridge had taken on the project of turning the script into a novel.  In it, Faith and Luke have what seems to be an ideal marriage until Luke's firm is charged with operating a massive ponsi scheme.  When Luke refuses to answer Faith's questions about his involvement, she flees New York City, escaping back to her childhood farm and a family she had left years before.  Basically, the story is a double "prodigal son's" story.  Faith is welcomed back by her father, but her sister Olivia harbors resentment over the 10 year absence and Faith's pattern of running from adversity instead of dealing with it.  Olivia is the dutiful sibling and her jealousy, despite having a good marriage and healthy kids, runs deep.  I am sure this sibling rivalry would play well in a movie; on paper, it seemed a little forced.  They would seem to be on the road to mending and then Olivia would get upset again.  Too much on/off for me.

Meanwhile Luke has his own "prodigal" story.  Before joining the Michov Investment firm he had been partner in his father's firm, along side his older brother Jake.  While both his father and brother immediately stand beside the younger sibling to help defend him, Luke feels unworthy of their continuing trust and help.  Hurt that Faith has left him, he believes that his own family sees her disappearance as proof that she was not the "right" wife for him.

Often when we read a book, we get the feeling that it would make a good movie.  For me, that is usually because the characters are complex and the story compelling.  This time, as I read, I could tell that this was a recreation of one acting scene after another.  Any character development had to be blended into the dialogue or simple action.  Missing were the extras that in a book build the flavor of the setting  -- the interaction of place, time, and circumstances. To be honest, there are slight attempts at establishing the flavor -- the horse barn, the old church, and such, but all are presented foremost as places of action, not vehicles to developing deeper understanding.  A trip to New York by Faith and her father attempts to do this, but my brain kept saying, "Well, this would be interesting to watch on screen but there really hasn't been any attempt to capture that same feeling in words."

My final vote is that this would be a good read for a young romantic who just can't find enough other romances to read (Is that possible?)  Possibly someone who was enthralled with the movie would want to give the book a try.  If you have never read Rene Gutteridge before, I would simply suggest you preview her other writings before making a choice.


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