This story of a celebrated American heart surgeon who refuses to believe in God because his twin sister did and she died the week before their high school graduation in Africa is a good/evil tale with plenty of medical description. Anyone interested in or participating in foreign mission work will find this a quick read.
dr Krause is one of my favorite authors since I am in the nursing field. I went on a mission trip to Nairobi, Kenya so it was easier to imagine where the events took place and the cultural expectations of the Kenyans of foreigners. The struggles of bringing in equipment and then beginning a medical practice was so vivid to me. I ejoyed the way the way the author wrote about the problems and dilemnas of the main character and his wife and how they were resolved. Not an easy fix.
Noted heart surgeon Jace Rawlings is back in Kenya, his childhood home. Son of missionaries, he has forsaken their faith and made a success of himself in the U. S. But is he back in Africa because of his desire to bring healing to those who would otherwise receive it, or is he running?
Through emergency surgery, Jace had saved the Virginia governor's life, but in the process had become too close to the governor's beautiful wife. And then Jace was in an automobile accident. The governor's wife had been with him and had subsequently been killed. Jace remembers nothing of that night. Does he have true amnesia or is he just protecting himself?
When an autopsy reveals that she had been drugged and had recently had sex, all suspicions turn to Jace. Heather, Jace's wife, receives a copy of the autopsy sent anonymously. Still back in Virginia, she had refused to go to Africa with Jace. She didn't know if she could trust him - the late nights, the lipstick on his shirt collar.
Jace experiences many cultural differences that jeopardizes his heart surgery plans. When he does perform some surgeries, his patients have messages for him. Messages from beyond this world. And then it becomes clear that someone is out to murder Jace.
This novel is different from the others I've read by Kraus. Rather than a medical thriller, this novel is more of a novel about the cultural experiences of a doctor in Kenya and the loyalty between wife and husband. The action in the novel is interspersed with back flashes, from both recent history (with the governor) and from childhood. The history behind Jace's current actions are very slowly revealed. I was expecting the same kind of action I found in Kraus' previous medical thrillers but this one is much, much slower and longer.
Kraus notes in the discussion questions that he himself was currently working at Kijabe Hospital so much of what he has included in this book comes from his current experience. It also appears (Question 8) that he was born in Kenya so Jace's childhood experiences may have come from the author's as well.
I received a complimentary egalley from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Moving from comfortable Virginia to Kenya to begin the nation's first heart surgery programme sounds like a noble objective, but Dr Jace Rawlings is running away. He's running away from a broken marriage, a possible affair and memory loss, and returning to the town where he grew up as a missionary kid, working at the hospital where his Dad was a doctor, and where he lost his faith and his twin sister.
But this is Africa, and there are challenges in getting the programme started, not least in getting the equipment through customs. And once Jace undertakes the first operation, he finds a strange after-effect: his patient is giving him messages from beyond this dimension. And that's not his only problem. Someone is out to end the heart surgery programme, and it looks as though he might be implicated in a death back in the US.
I've read and enjoyed novels set in Africa and other exotic locations (particularly those by JM Windle). I've read and enjoyed medical dramas (by authors such as Candace Calvert and Hannah Alexander). I've read and enjoyed novels with a supernatural element (like The Widow of Saunders Creek or Illusion). And I've read and enjoyed several of Kraus's previous books (including Perfect and the Claire McCall series), so I thought I would enjoy this. I did, but not as much as I expected.
The opening of Open Heart was excellent, as Jace found himself thrown in jail, then refusing to pay the bribes to release his medical equipment. But as I progressed, it felt as though the novel was trying to be a supernatural thriller (with supernatural messages and a witch doctor), a medical thriller (the surgery) and a suspense novel (who wants to end the heart programme and why, the US element and the back story about Jace's twin sister) all at the same time. It was too much, and I'm not sure it worked.
But my big problem was Jace's faith. While I could understand why he turned away from Christianity as a child, I didn't see why he essentially faked faith throughout his adult life. He married another missionary kid, a strong Christian woman; he went to church, then he goes back to Africa to serve in a missionary hospital, yet he has no personal faith. (SPOILER: He then has a major change of heart at the end of the story, yet it came out of nowhere. It seemed convenient rather than heartfelt).
And there were times when Open Heart was let down by the writing. I found that the technical dialogue that comes across quickly in a TV medical drama doesn't work so well on the page. It sounded authentic, but it read like a foreign language. There were too many points of view, odd changes of tense, and some of the scenes had a repetitious sentence structure (like starting consecutive paragraphs with adverbs).
Overall, it could have been great, but it wasn't.
Thanks to David C Cook and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.