Michelle's Review: Heart With Joy by Steve Cushman

heartwithjoy Trade Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Canterbury House Publishing

Release Date: Sept. 1, 2010
Source of my copy: author
Synopsis (from Amazon)

In Heart With Joy, fifteen-year-old Julian Hale’s life is turned upside down when his mother suddenly moves from North Carolina to Venice, Florida under the pretense of running her parents’ motel and finishing the novel she has been working on for years. While Julian has always been closer to his mother and wants to go with her, she tells him he has to stay with his father until the end of the school year.
Six weeks after his mother leaves, Julian’s father decides to run a marathon. This surprises Julian because he has never seen his father exercise, but once he agrees to help him train the two develop the sort of close relationship they’ve never had before. Also, with the help of an elderly neighbor, Julian learns that the most important thing in life is to follow your heart. And Julian’s heart leads him to a passion for cooking and a young cashier at the local grocery store. By the end of the novel, Julian is forced to choose between staying with his father and going to live with his mother.
Heart With Joy is an uplifting coming of age novel about cooking and bird watching, about writing and pottery, and about falling in love and the sacrifices we all make. But ultimately, it’s about the importance of following your heart and trusting that it will take you where you need to go.

Michelle's Review:
The blurb above does a good job summarizing Heart With Joy so I'm not going to reiterate it again. The story was told in first-person perspective through 15-year-old Julian. He was very likable and you can't help but feel for him in the beginning after his mother left and he wasn't sure how to talk to or act around his dad. It was great reading how their father-son relationship changed throughout the book. I also liked that Julian's hobby is cooking and how it became more than a hobby as he gained more confidence in his cooking and experimented with recipes. But as much as I liked Julian, I thought he was too... perfect. I kept thinking as I was reading this book that Julian is the kind of son I want to have (you know, if I decide to have kids): sweet, understanding, thoughtful, wakes up at the crack of dawn to help little old ladies feed birds and walks the cat (yes, I said cat), would rather stay home and cook for dad than go out with friends... Hmm... maybe I'm being a cynic.

The other characters were great too, like Julian's neighbor Mrs. Peters. She was a sweet old lady whose hobby is bird watching and gave Julian milk and cookies as well as a new appreciation for birds, and Tia, Julian's love interest who shares his passion for cooking. The only character I didn't like was Julian's mom. I don't know if she's supposed to be a sympathetic character but I found her to be self-serving and selfish--I wouldn't have been as forgiving and understanding as Julian if I was in his situation especially if after finding out what she did before she left for Florida.

If you're looking for crazy twists and surprises you won't find it here. It's just a simple, straightforward story about finding that [sometimes elusive] something that makes you happy and fills your heart with joy. Besides that, it's also a story one's relationships, about family, friendship, love and forgiveness, and even death and loss. I love coming of age stories and Heart With Joy was a refreshing, feel-good kind read with wonderful characters. I thought the writing was great as well--it's understated but it will sneak up on you, grab you and make you care for the characters and leaves you satisfied after you read the last page. 4 out of 5 stars


  1. You don't see many male protags- I will have to read this one soon.
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  2. I loved this one. Now that you mention it, yes, Julian was a bit too perfect. But I think that was part of his problem...always wanting to please others!!! Great review!

  3. For a book with not action or adventure, I found Heart of Joy a truly lovely coming of age story with a lot of heart. Like you I loved how Julian and his father's relationship grew and was not too fond of his mother either. The whole cooking aspect made me smile as did his relationship with Mrs. Peter. Thank God Mrs Peters had Julian because her son was such a jerk. Great review Michelle.


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