Beach Books

books-cover-freeman heartbeats

Heartbeats: True Stories of Love
By Lynda Freeman
415 pages
Available from amazon.ca
Reviewed by Jon Muldoon

“Life, for Lynda Freeman, is essentially positive.”

So begins the description on the back of Freeman’s latest book Heartbeats: True Stories of Love.

And while that undoubtedly is true in the overall message of the book, readers shouldn’t let the seemingly sunny description scare away those with a taste for the real. Heartbeats delivers plenty of heartbreak, tragedy, humour, and seriousness while letting each narrator relay their own example of the meaning and power of love in its many forms.

Those forms are separated by section, beginning with, of course, romantic love, in the section titled Amour, Amore, It’s Love We Seek.

Freeman’s main role is as a gatherer of stories, so her voice comes through mostly in the editing and sequencing.

The stories themselves are all true, gathered from conversations with people she’s met along the way, both here at home in Toronto and while travelling regularly to Mexico. (Freeman is also a painter, and has made several trips south to paint.)

While many of the stories in the book range in style and content, quite a few come from those at an age where hindsight is possible.

That experience helps lend weight to the judgments of those who realize they’ve finally found love, often after years of thinking it wouldn’t happen, or after the loss of a previous partner.

The second section deals with family, with stories of adoption, mental illness, and dealing with race and religion in merged families.

One story, told by the youngest of 10 siblings, is a touching but amusing reminder of the blessing of shared humour when it comes to family. Tony, the storyteller, is relaying the difficulty of attending the funeral of one of his brothers, who has passed away at a relatively young age, when a lighthearted moment brings his family some comfort in their grief:

“We stepped up to the open casket. In a nice dark suit lay Steve’s body, looking familiar but not real. My mother spoke. Her voice was a bit weak, but loving.

“Oh, would you look at him,” she said. “He looks so handsome.”

“I don’t know,” my sister replied. “I don’t think it looks at all like him.”

Without a moment’s hesitation, my mom said, “That’s because he’s not talking.”

The three of us began to laugh.”

– from Love and Laughter

Lest those with furry ones in their hearts feel neglected, the third part deals with animals and is titled, of course, Tails of Love.

Here Freeman tells her own story of loving her dog despite its decision to chew up her passport the day before a flight to Mexico.

Other cats and dogs are covered, including a story told from the point of view of a service dog (and be warned, those who choke up easily will need Kleenex at the ready). The most unexpected entry might be the one relaying the unlikely friendship between Bonito the horse and Lambie the goat.

The fourth section of Heartbeats deals with friendship. Some recall memories from childhood, while one teller writes about a friend first met at the ripe young age of 60.

The final section, Love, Love and More Love, deals mostly with people learning to accept or give love, and is the shortest section of the five.

Heartbeats: True Stories of Love certainly lives up to its title, offering a very real and mixed selection of stories from a cross-section of people relating tales of many sides of the idea of love. While the tone is uneven at times, that’s to be expected when 50 authors are involved, and it’s remarkable how well most of these stories tie together and flow one to the next. It’s a book that can be picked up from time to time and returned to later, as the stories, while related in theme, do not need to be read chronologically.

If Valentine’s Day has you looking for new love stories with a ring of truth, Heartbeats might just be the book to fan your flame.


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