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Review: The Girl Who Could Read Hearts by Sherry Maysonave

Kate Kindrick, the main character of “The Girl Who Could Read Hearts,” has a unique gift. At the age of six, the child possesses rare intuition. Incredibly observant like no ordinary child at this age, little Kate actively participates in the lives of her loved ones. Born with a special gift, she sees colors and images in people’s hearts. The child has a mystical connection to Etta Ebella – an angel doll given to her by her loving grandmother, Grandma Mer. With the help of this angel, Kate can acutely sense what people are thinking and thus has the special ability to influence their lives. Ultimately, Kate can prevent them from making mistakes and hence save them from potential tragedy. 

The novel hinges on the unique power of intuition. As we read, some of us could be motivated to listen more carefully to the heart. A closer look at the book moves us to realize that miracles can happen all around us no matter where we are, who we communicate to, or even what we do in life. In the end, we learn that we have the power to influence, even change, the reality we live in. What we should do is begin to believe in the living power of miracles.

At the beginning of the book, little Kate turns six. In the opening scene, a festive birthday party seems to promise a peaceful and happy life for Kate and her family. We get the sense that Kate is surrounded by love and constantly guided by her angel doll. No obstacles seem to prevent the innocent child from enjoying her life and learning new lessons every day. But when Etta Ebella’s wings are burned in a birthday cake accident, Kate’s uncle, Terrence Kindrick who is also a famous writer, appeals to Dr. Angelique Donahorn, an angel doctor. 

One glance at the doll leaves the doctor speechless. She has seen this doll in the past. Angelique and her two sisters crafted these angel dolls together. Etta Ebella was particularly precious to Angelique, because it was the first doll she made. Angelique then gave the angel to her mother who treasured her as if she was a real person. The book portrays the inevitability of death, the pain of loss, and the importance of timeliness. Angelique had failed to see her dying mother before her death and had felt guilty for years afterwards. She had not dared to disobey her mother’s request. Her mother had wanted Angelique to finish her education. After her mother died, however, to Angelique’s dismay, Etta Ebella had mysteriously disappeared. 

Once tragedy strikes the peaceful lives of Kate and her family, the cheerful atmosphere of the book immediately changes. Readers are almost cruelly jolted out of this happy mood and returned to an abruptly changed and grim reality. Upset by the birthday cake accident, Kate sits in a tree and continuously blames herself for having let it happen. She then starts climbing higher up and falls out of the tree into the arms of her uncle, Terrence Kindrick, who runs to save her. At this point, one tragedy follows another. As she falls, Kate breaks her arm and scratches her face. Terrence who ends up saving her gets hit by a tree branch and suffers a very serious concussion. 

Kate’s loving grandmother, Grandma Mer, is paralyzed and regrets that she cannot guide the child in the right direction as well as teach her to use her gifts for the benefit of others. She is even able to telepathically sense that her granddaughter was falling from the tree but cannot communicate it to Terrence who arrives too late. Her silence makes her remarkable precognition futile. She can read hearts but has lost the power of speech. 

In the remaining part of the novel, the characters encounter more and more tragedies. Kate and her uncle both end up in the hospital. Terrence undergoes brain surgery, while Kate suffers from a broken arm. Suddenly, the lives of these initially happy characters turn into chaos. After Kate recovers, her parents go off to Hawaii to get a much-needed rest, while Kate stays with her aunt, uncle, and cousin. The long-suffering child is now tortured by her cruel uncle and cousin. 

At this point, the novel offers an interesting commentary on religion and people’s attitude to faith. Kate’s uncle Vaynem Moxsin is an important man of the church, but we soon learn that he practices Churchianity as opposed to Christianity. Ironically enough, this esteemed man of the church is a villain on the inside. Cruel and brutal to his wife and daughter, Vaynem is the very epitome of hypocrisy. 

The novel goads readers to look underneath the surface. No matter how powerfully we may be attracted to characters who seem deeply religious, the novel sends us a completely different message. Real Christians should focus on how they treat each other and not on flaunting their piety. As he is immeasurably fixated on his vanity, Vaynem becomes completely inhumane and tortures his wife, daughter and little niece. Is this, we might ask, remotely what we expect from a man of the church? No, but the character portrays corruption and shows how fixation on our vanity can ruin the best of our intentions and efforts.  

The flaw in the book, in my opinion, lies in the extreme focus on tragedy. We do not necessarily get the sense that we are liberated from suffering even after all the characters have healed and are celebrating Kate’s seventh birthday at the end of the book. A shroud of pain and sadness seems to weigh over these characters to such an extreme that I did not feel like they could ever get over the pain of all the tragic moments they lived through. And yet, the book ends on a strangely (to me) optimistic note. Life goes on… Kate turns seven. Her angel continues to guide and support her. Everything is back to normal. Or is it? Maybe the stamp of tragedy remains. Once planted, it seems hard to eradicate. In the end, however, the book teaches us many a valuable lesson. We learn, we grow with Kate, and we believe, so very strongly, in the power and existence of angels.

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