It has been stated that there is nothing worse for a parent to experience than the death of a child. Real life is full of stories about families who become closer and families who fall apart after such an occurrence. Always in My Heart is a story about one such family and their struggle to get on with their life. It is a story about feelings, relationships, families and love. And it is packed with emotion.
Tucker and Ellie Grant were childhood sweethearts, dating at sixteen, marrying at 19, working their way through college and finally having three wonderful boys. Sammy, the oldest, died while riding a motorcycle on his birthday. Zach and Kody were devastated. Ellie and Tucker, both feeling guilt, isolated themselves from each other and their boys. Tucker left and they divorced.
Three years later, Tucker still lives in their hometown of Bend, Oregon. Ellie has a new job, a new house, and moved the boys a few hours away to Springfield. Ellie has a man friend, Marvin, whom the boys think is a dweeb. Tucker is dating a young woman, Liz, whom the boys think is a bimbo. Neither Tucker nor Ellie are serious about these two, but Zach and Kody are scared. They have hopes that they can be a family again. It is so clear to them that Tucker and Ellie still love each other, but things are just going awry. They fear these two friends are causing thoughts of remarriage, which will ruin everything.
So, they hatch a plan. They decide to run away into the Oregon wilderness, forcing their parents to come search for them, thus putting them alone together so that they rediscover their love. Tucker is a forestry man, and one of the best trackers in the state. As a family, they used to spend weeks hiking and camping in this wilderness. Tucker has taught the boys how to survive. At 15 and 11, Zach and Kody know what they are doing. The question is, will it work?
What follows is a thought-provoking look at the dynamics of a family dealing with grief, guilt and love. It is at times funny, silly, sad, heartrending, devastating, romantic, heartwarming, energizing and …need I go on? I felt every emotion imaginable while reading this book. Even when feeling blue, I was engaged and emotionally tied-in to these characters.
I laughed when the boys sneaked into camp to play tricks on Marvin and Liz. The presence of these two was spoiling some of the boys’ plans, so they thought to scare them off. I chuckled when they outwitted Tucker and he was torn between anger that they had led him on a wild goose chase, and pride in their skills. I cringed when the emotions spilled out of Tucker and Ellie. I cried when the realities of their loss was revealed. I hugged my children when I felt that vulnerability that parents feel when a child is in danger. And I was cloaked in the glow of the love and affection of this couple and this family.
I would rank this slightly behind my favorite Anderson, Phantom Waltz. There are brief moments when I felt the action lagged a little and Ellie, particularly, hung on to the past a tad too long. Tucker was able to heal quicker and thus garnered some of my feelings of support for him, creating a little frustration with Ellie’s actions. But this was minor and did not affect my sense of enjoyment in the total book. Zach and Kody were well-developed and their actions were true to their adolescent ages.
If you love Catherine Anderson’s books, don’t hesitate to pick this up. If you have never been exposed to her writings, give this a try. I am certain she will be added to your favorites list very quickly. Always in My Heart is like a full-bodied wine; savor it.