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Pieces of the Heart    by Karen White order for
Pieces of the Heart
by Karen White
Order:  USA  Can
New American Library, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

Karen White is the bestselling author of The Color of Light. Though I missed that one, it was a treat to read her second novel, Pieces of the Heart. The story takes place in North Carolina, a mountainous area with beautiful foliage and abundant lakes. Caroline comes home to stay with her mother Margaret in this beatific setting. Unfortunately, mother and daughter have never gotten along with each other, and the tragic death of Caroline's younger brother Jude, when she was seventeen, only deepened the chasm between them.

Why does Caroline plan an extended stay at her mother's home? It's on a beautiful property fronting on Lake Ophelia. Caroline and Jude used to spend hours swimming, and while Jude was the 'shining star' of the siblings, Caroline had a special talent for swimming, which came to an abrupt end along with mental and physical scars. Caroline is now an accountant who has been having difficulties (more mental than physical). She takes a leave of absence to visit her mother. This turns out to be a difficult situation, as Margaret constantly trails behind Caroline, who is a grown woman and able to make up her mind and care for herself.

Fortunately, neighbors keep Caroline's sanity in check and, as the story evolves, her life is changed in ways she did not believe possible - so that she comes to terms with both her mother and herself. A local widower - the husband of one of Caroline's childhood friends - and his daughter slowly draw her out of her shell. She re-evaluates what she wants out of life and how to get there (if she has not already by returning home).

Pieces of the Heart is a poignant novel and I found myself teary-eyed, at times, reading this book filled with a myriad of emotions, both good and bad. While Caroline is not the most likeable character at first, I began to enjoy reading about her journey as she became more courageous, faced one of her biggest fears, and made an effort to create a bond with her mother. Kudos to Karen White for penning a wonderful, heartfelt novel that will be thoroughly enjoyed by fans of women's fiction.

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