Tides of the Heart
Before I get started, I wanted to let you know right off that this is not a romance. It is a book stuffed full of relationships, both good and bad, but nary a romantic moment in sight. Lots of implied sex, none of the L-word. Despite these drawbacks to a romance fan, especially one who is as big a fan as I am, Tides of the Heart is a decent read that has the potential for inducing a few tears and a sigh or two at the end.
Jesse Bates finds herself in a state of emotional limbo after her divorce, but for none of the usual reasons. Sure, her self-centered, shallow, pretentious husband traded her in for the trophy wife she refused to be. Her three grown children don’t seem to be able to be the human beings she would like for them to be. Her socialite friends take delight in pointing out her divorced status any chance they can (in a very catty way – you know what socialites are like). All of this weighs on her, but the one thing that is weighing on Jesse the most is the anonymous phone call and note that she recently received. These anonymous messages are suggesting that the baby she gave up for adoption when she was fifteen and whom she thought was dead is actually alive and well. Jesse is torn – is this a wound that she wants to reopen?
Unwanted pregnancies and adoption are two subjects that are hard to tackle in a work of fiction, at least in my mind. The story can end up being preachy, and the characters can be way too good to be true. Ms. Stone has handled this sensitive subject with honesty and compassion, turning a potentially difficult story into something moving. The women in this book – Jesse and her friend Ginny (who lived with Jesse in a home for unwed mothers and who also gave up her baby) – are real characters, weak and strong and very believable. The plot is intricate. The few flashbacks (with one exception) fit well, not disrupting the book’s flow.
There were a few irritating things, though. A subplot involving Jesse’s father, although pivotal, is written as a flashback that doesn’t fit with the rest of the book. I also felt that Ms. Stone wanted to make us believe that men and women are easily manipulated with sex, and if they aren’t being manipulated, they are doing the manipulating. That whole theme left me with an unclean feeling. Also, out of all the people in this book, only about 1/3 were decent human beings – the rest behaved pretty reprehensibly. Not a positive example of the human condition.
Jesse’s journey is a journey of painful memories and self-discovery. It is a journey with plenty of surprises. And if you make it through all the icky stuff (nasty stepsons, baby sellers, crooked cops and doctors, shallow unscrupulous lawyers) you might find a shining moment at the end, leaving you with hope for the human condition after all.