Open Heart: A poignant and gripping historical novel about the enduring power of love by Gregory D. Williams is one of the best coming-of-age stories I have read. Williams nails the atmosphere of the early 1970s. The book moves between 1971 and 1974. Set in Phoenix, Gene McClellan is a senior in high school who has a summer job painting fruit trees white to keep the heat from the sun off of them. On the job, he meets Patty who has moved into the neighborhood and he falls in love. She has a medical problem on their first date, and he immediately calls his father who is a doctor. Gene’s quick actions saves Patti’s life.
In 1974, we find his father had died in an accident and he is hoping to get a summer job shadowing a heart surgeon at the hospital where his father worked. I loved the quirky characters at the hospital (especially Jessie). The author is gifted in writing about Gene’s feelings about Patty and moving back and forth between the two time periods. My nose was in this book from the moment I started this book until I finished. I laughed. I cried. I found myself having conversations with the author.
When I did finish the book, I looked up the author and discovered that he was a doctor, but unfortunately he passed away in 2020. I want to thank Grand Canyon Press and NetGalley for an ARC of this book. The opinions in this review are my own.