on March 12, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Historical, Suspense
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"...a soaring historical epic...Jess Lederman has given us unforgettable characters..."--WisePath Books
Hearts Set Free weaves together three tales of men and women who journey from the darkness of doubt to triumphant faith and from the ache of loneliness to everlasting love. In 1930, the rag-tag riffraff of a railway stop called Las Vegas need a fighting man to shepherd their tiny church after their pastor is murdered. Might David Gold, a washed-up boxer and Bible-school dropout who fights as the Pummelin' Preacher, be the answer to their prayers?
At the same time, Luke, a native Alaskan boy, is on a quest to find his father, who has abandoned his family for a beautiful woman his mother vows to kill. Little do mother or son imagine that their journey will take them to a small town in Nevada where demons and angels walk among men.
In 2011,Science Cable T.V. producer Tim Faber is determined to prove that mankind has no need of God, while his lover, Joan Reed, strives to regain the faith of her youth. They're bound for Las Vegas to meet with 99-year-old Luke,who holds the key to a mystery they must solve--and answers that will forever change their lives.
Hearts Set Free is a coming-of-age story and love story, with strong female characters and historical figures (including Jack Johnson, Georges Lemaitre, and Bugsy Siegel) who interact with an unforgettable fictional cast.
Hearts Set Free is a novel that’s difficult to categorize. Part allegory (or at least so heavy-handed in its messaging that I’m going to call it allegory) and part historical fiction, the novel follows three disparate storylines that slowly begin to weave together. Story one, set in the early 1900s, follows Uukkarnit Noongwook—called Luke—and his struggle to survive in Alaskan Territory after his father’s abandonment. Story two, set in the same time frame, takes us across the ocean to Europe and David Gold’s experiences in World War I. Story three takes place in present times—that being 2011, despite the book being published in 2019—and follows Joan and Tim and their quest to uncover the story of Georges Lemaitre, a priest and scientist who predicted the universe’s expansion before Hubble.
If it sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. Jess Lederman switches from storyline to storyline with frenetic speed, keeping readers from settling into any one place or mood. As soon as you’re settled into one storyline, he moves to the next, disrupting and discombobulating the natural flow of the story. When dealing with multiple storylines, those storylines must be held to a natural conclusion or divided in a way that enhances the drama. Lederman doesn’t do that, particularly in the early chapters, and it keeps readers from being able to settle into and follow the story.
Hearts Set Free also fails to settle on a genre. One positive review from the book’s front cover—research would show that it’s a website where authors can pay $400 for a review—gleefully mentions that it embraces aspects of multiple genres. Blending a genre is okay. But is this book magical realism? Allegory? Historical? Romance? Christian? (It has heavy-handed imagery, but also language and violence usually reserved for secular titles.) Mystery? The book can’t decide and it does about as good a job pulling the genres together as it does the storylines.
Thematically, the novel is overbearingly heavy-handed in its message. There are constant asides to dialogue about faith in a manner that seems directed at the reader and not part of the character’s natural inclinations or development or to advance the story. It’s a preachy mess.
Overall, I can congratulate Lederman on the fact that he completed a novel. That’s something most people don’t do. But the novel’s clear lack of editing and professional review is clear on multiple levels. I don’t recommend it. And I’ll also be avoiding anything BlueInk Review recommends in the future.