Just after I began blogging I was privileged to host a wonderful guest post (here) from Stephanie Butland on Linda’s Book Bag about how her writing had evolved over time. This was just as The Other Half of My Heart was published and I reviewed that wonderful book here. Then, just over a year ago I was involved in the cover reveal for Stephanie’s Lost For Words (though I accidentally published the post a week early and have never quite recovered from the embarrassment.)
Today, with enormous thanks to Emily Burns for sending me a surprise copy, I am reviewing Stephanie Butland’s The Curious Heart of Alisa Rae.
The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae is available for purchase here.
The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae
Ailsa Rae is learning how to live.
She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that – just in time – saved her life. Life should be a joyful adventure. But . . .
Her relationship with her mother is at breaking point and she wants to find her father.
Have her friends left her behind?
And she’s felt so helpless for so long that she’s let polls on her blog make her decisions for her. She barely knows where to start on her own.
Then there’s Lennox. Her best friend and one time lover. He was sick too. He didn’t make it. And now she’s supposed to face all of this without him.
My Review of The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae
Ailsa has waited 28 years for a new heart and getting one may not be the panacea for all ills she imagined.
Oh. This is so good. The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae could so easily be saccharine or mawkish as a result of its subject matter but because of the wonderful quality of Stephanie Butland’s writing it is neither, but rather is an honest, uplifting and riveting read. Indeed, there is considerable humour through what could be bleak moments and I especially liked the dynamics between Ailsa and Seb.
I loved meeting Ailsa, Seb and Hayley in particular although even the more minor characters have a vital and interesting part to play in the story. Lennox in particular adds depth to Ailsa that she simply wouldn’t have if we didn’t see her relationship with him. I think it was particularly the wonderfully natural dialogue that made these people come alive for me. Stephanie Butland knows how to use an unfinished sentence to perfection so that the reader feels the full brunt of emotion without her characters having to spell out their feelings. Ailsa is so real to me because of her flawed personality, her need for affirmation and her less than perfect physical appearance. She is no different to any one of us, save perhaps for her transplant, and this is the crux of the matter. Having her life saved doesn’t bring instant happiness and fulfilment any more than life does for the ordinary person.
And that theme of transplant and donating organs is so brilliantly handled. I’ve carried a donor card since they were introduced and feel strongly we all should but Stephanie Butland never preaches. She merely presents the thoughts of her characters and allows her reader to make up their own mind about the validity of becoming a potential donor. I think her writing is all the more powerful as a result.
Although the concept of organ donation is a strong and engaging theme, for me the essence of The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae and the most powerful aspect is Ailsa’s need to grow up and become truly ‘herself’ and an independent woman. I loved the thought that the past might shape us, but we can shape our future.
I thought The Curious Heart of Alisa Rae was a lovely book. Reading it made me experience a range of emotions and ultimately gave me optimism and a genuine feeling of warmth. I really recommend it. Oh, and also, I recommend looking to join a tango class. I’m off to find one near me!
About Stephanie Butland
Stephanie Butland lives in Northumberland, close to the place where she grew up. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and loves being close to the sea. She’s thriving after cancer.