Vida is 19 and has never had much of a life. Struggling along with a life-threatening heart condition, her whole life has been one long preparation for death. But suddenly she is presented with a donor heart, and just in time. Now she gets to do something she never imagined she’d have to do: live. Richard is a 36-year-old man who’s just lost his beloved wife, Lorrie, in a car accident. Still in shock and not even having begun the process of grieving, he is invited to the hospital to meet the young woman who received his wife’s donor heart. Vida takes one look at Richard and feels she’s loved him all her life. And tells him so. Richard assumes she’s just a foolish young girl. And maybe she is. Or maybe there’s truth behind the theory of cellular memory, and maybe it really is possible for a heart to remember, at least for a time, on its own. By bestselling author Catherine Ryan Hyde, SECOND HAND HEART is a story of love, of unexpected chances, and of inconceivable loss—of having to learn to live for the first time, and having to learn to live all over again.
What happens if for your whole life you’ve had to live a cocooned life? Not knowing whether you would live to see your next birthday? Not knowing whether you’ll get to University? Not knowing whether you’ll meet the man of your dreams? That’s the life that Vida is living. A life consumed with hospital appointments and tests and drugs all because of her defective heart. We meet Vida as she waits in hospital and the future is grim. And because of this she decides to write a journal telling us her innermost thoughts, her fears and about the important people in her life. Then one day she tells us that a heart donor has been found and suddenly Vida is given a lifeline, a second chance to live her life.
On the other end of the scale we meet Richard. A man who had it all, a job, a house and a wife he loved. Until one day an oil spill and some rain takes away his very reason for living. We meet a man so consumed with grief that he can only get through his day by emailing his mother in law and telling her how he’s barely coping without his wife. He also tells her about the girl who received his wife’s donated heart and how he feels like he wants to meet her. Just this once.
And so begins a tale of second chances. Vida’s new lease of life is coupled with a feeling of deja vu. When she meets Richard for the first time, she feels a connection with him. She feels like she knows him. She knows that she loves him. Is this her mind talking or is it her new heart? The way she feels she connects to Richard brings him to wonder: do hearts have a retentive memory to the body they belonged in before?
Against all odds – and advice of their nearest and dearest – Vida and Richard set out on a journey to find out whether loss and second chances can turn into love.
While the main focus of this book is on Vida, it’s Richard that I sympathised with more. His pain and loss only adds to the confusion he has through is feelings for Vida. Does he feel something for her or does he feel something for her new heart? Vida is relentless in her contact with him and, at times, I felt like I wanted to tell her to take a step back and give him some space. But yet, I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was her heart that was driving her to make the decisions that she does throughout the book.
Second Hand Heart is a journey of being able to live again. While the ending is both unexpected and expected to a certain degree; it does give you a sense of completeness and leaves you wondering whether second chances, in the case of Vida and Richard, are truly what they are.