Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review: Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But when she receives a shocking telephone call from her sister, Jewel, everything she's worked for begins to crumble.

After the sudden death of Jewel's husband, Jewel needs Lula's help. 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. Neither subject belongs anywhere near the halls of academia, according to Lula!

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

However, the more time she spends in Dunn, the more Lula realizes God is working on her heart--and her future is beginning to look a lot different than she'd expected.

My source for book: Review Copy
My Thoughts:
Though I'm not a big sports fan, I found it quite amusing that Lula was appointed coach for the girls basketball team despite the fact that she didn't know anything about the game! It was interesting to see her slowly learn the basics and play "coach" to the girls who knew more about the game than she did.

I really liked both Lula and Chet as the main characters, but the will-they-or-won't-they relationship angle went back and forth a couple more times than I would've preferred. I grew a little weary of them both pushing the other away for various "noble" reasons, all the while failing to communicate on the issue which ultimately made it seem like a complete rejection. I really wanted their communication to be better, and in the end I wasn't entirely convinced they knew each other well enough to make a commitment.

The regulations for female teachers of this era seem much more strict than for the men, and while I found this rather unfair I also suspect that it's likely a very realistic portrayal of the issue. I really liked seeing Lula sort of innocently buck the extreme rules, and the outcome was one that I truly didn't expect.

For those who want a happy ending (and who doesn't, right!?), the story does have one, though it took a detour that I hoped it wouldn't. Regardless of that, what sticks in my mind the most is Lula's shining moment towards the end, which I thought was quite fun and also a nice nod to her efforts to learn the game of basketball. 

Undeniably the story has some very unique plot elements and an overall good message, but honestly it's not my favorite novel from the author. ("Wings of a Dream" holds that honor.) While this one is generally entertaining, it just didn't have a "wow" factor for me. Though it's well written and seems realistic, ultimately I don't think the characters or their story will stay with me very long now that I've reached the end. Still, if the synopsis sounds appealing to you at all, I'd say go for it. It's a very solid "good" story, but just not "great".

My Rating: 3 stars

Thanks to the publisher (Bethany House) for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for reviewing this one, Valerie. I was thinking about reviewing it, but chose not to request it and overall, it sounds like that was a wise decision. :)