Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer

Book description:

Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But then a shocking phone call from her sister, Jewel, changes everything.

With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister, but the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Lula doesn’t even consider those real subjects!

Determined to prove herself, Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys’ coach, Chet, to learn the newfangled game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She’s returning to college and her scholarship as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet.

However, the more time she spends around Jewel’s family, the girls’ basketball team, music classes, and Chet, the more Lula comes to realize what she’s given up in her single-minded pursuit of degree after degree. God is working on her heart, and her future is starting to look a lot different than she’d expected.

My review:

This book offers a little bit for everyone.  I don’t often think that about fiction books, but this one does.  There are a lot of things going on in this book, whether it is sports, music, war, romance, teaching, or family.  I think it also does a fair bit of demonstrating difficulties women faced at the turn of the century.  It is always interesting to be reminded of the rules that women school teachers had to adhere to while they were teaching.

The plot of this book was fairly predictable, as most books of this genre are.  Therefore, I like to think more about the characters and how the author crafts other aspects of the plot to achieve the predictable conclusion in an unpredictable way.  I thought the subplots and supporting characters provided a lot of interest to Lula’s story.

The only thing I didn’t love about this book was the way the perspective switched between Lula and Chet.  It isn’t my favorite writing technique to tell the story from different perspectives, and I thought it was unnecessary for this one.  Mateer does a great job crafting her characters in such a way that we get to know Chet and Lula, without needing to be privy to their internal thoughts.

The message in this book is particularly strong.  Readers can learn from Lula that we can have our plans mapped out and engraved in stone, but we still need to be aware of God’s will for our lives and be ready to listen and respond to his voice.  We can be reassured through Lula’s experiences that heeding God’s will is the best recipe for a happy life.

Despite my small criticism, I greatly enjoyed this book and think that many other readers will as well.  It is a light-reading book that can be read over the course of a weekend or while traveling.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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