Gold Star Award Winner!
There's always going to be those stories that capture your heart. Whether it's something that is heartbreaking and sticks with you, or something that is so pure and enticing that your heart envelops it; one way or another your heart becomes involved with the words and the characters inside. ANXIOUS HEARTS by Tucker Shaw is not only one of those stories, it's the latter of the two. It's the one that runs through your mind over and over again; it's the one that's so pure that you become one with the story.
In 1847, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published a poem, "Evangeline," that has now become one of his most notable works, and also one of the most commonly taught poems in English classes. This beautiful poem inspired Tucker Shaw to write ANXIOUS HEARTS, and for that I must thank Mr. Longfellow (Yes, I am going to thank a man who's been dead for somewhere around, oh, 125+ years).
ANXIOUS HEARTS begins the story of Eva and Gabe, two teenagers who lost touch in each other's lives, only to pick back up years later as they explore the forests surrounding their seaside town. They follow the same paths, and are exploring the same tranquil forests, as Evangeline and Gabriel, two young lovers who did the same over one hundred years before them. On the day of Evangeline and Gabriel's wedding, their village was attacked by enemies and they were separated from one another. In the present, Gabe suddenly disappears from Eva and it seems as if their love will mirror that of the two lovers torn apart on their wedding day.
The first couple of chapters threw me for a loop. I'm used to alternate points of view, but I don't think I've ever read anything that is not only alternate voices, but also alternate time periods. Eva and Gabe's story is told by Eva, while Gabriel and Evangeline's tale is told by Gabriel, some hundred years earlier. It only took a few chapters in for me to not only get used to the change, but to also welcome the bits of each tale I got.
The imagery in ANXIOUS HEARTS is something I've not seen in a long time, not since AP English in high school. It's got the air of one of those old stories your teacher forces you to read, then you're thankful in the end. It's pure, beautiful, and vivid in the words that flow across the page. The beauty in Longfellow's tale weaves into Shaw's and the characters, both new and old, come alive on the page and leap into your mind.
I found it really hard to find the words to describe ANXIOUS HEARTS. There were moments that made me laugh and smile, then there were the ones that made my jaw drop and stay hanging open in fear and pain for the characters that had woven themselves into my heart in fewer than 300 pages. Eva, Gabe, Evangeline, and Gabriel all found their own place in my heart, and I found myself understanding them in different ways and wanting the best for them.
If you've never read "Evangeline" then I advise you not to read it until after you've read ANXIOUS HEARTS. It's been years since I've read it, but once I started reading the story of these lovers those years faded away and the story was there again. The story behind Shaw's words is just as important as the words themselves. This book is beautiful and lyrical; it flows with a fluid grace that enamors and captures the soul, all in the same page.
ANXIOUS HEARTS speaks to the hopeless romantic in all of us. It contains the purest love I've read in a long time. I didn't want the story to end, even though I knew it had to. If there's one romance that should be on everyone's shelf, it should be the timeless beauty that is this novel. Even those who aren't big fans of romance will have no other choice but to fall in love with these characters and the stories they have to tell.
Reviewed by: Samantha Clanton, aka "Harlequin Twilight"