FICTION

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae

Griffin: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2019. 416p. ISBN 9781250217011. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250217028. F
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Butland (The Woman in the Photograph) uses blog posts, emails, and straight narration to tell the story of Scottish Ailsa Rae, who receives a lifesaving heart transplant at 28. Born with a three-chambered heart (hypoplastic left heart syndrome), Ailsa has never known what it’s like to be well. She finished school and university but remains unemployed, still lives with her mother, and must visit the hospital several times a week. The novel emphasizes the importance of transplants and need for donors, as well as the issues of a young person dealing with a chronic and deadly disease, just as her independent adult life should be starting. Ailsa is a warm and very human character who stumbles as she struggles with decisions such as contacting her biological father, who abandoned her at birth. She leaves important life decisions to votes on her blog, but readers will watch her grow and see how, for Ailsa, learning to tango becomes a metaphor for embracing life.
VERDICT Readers will learn about transplanation as they cheer on Ailsa as she starts a job and a relationship, chooses a career path, and deals with the complexities of family.

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