Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Home for My Heart by Anne Mateer

A Home for My Heart

Sadie Sillsby works as the assistant to the matron at the Raystown Home for Orphan and Friendless Children and dreams of the day she’ll marry her beau, Blaine. But when the matron surprises everyone by announcing her own engagement, Sadie is suddenly next in line for the job. For a young woman who was once an orphan herself, a shot at such an esteemed position is a wish come true.
But the matron of the Home cannot be married. Is Sadie willing to give up her dreams of a life with Blaine and a family of her own? Is she prepared to forego daily involvement with the children as she manages the finances and logistics of the ministry? And when it’s revealed that the Home is spending a lot more money than it’s taking in, can Sadie turn things around before the place is forced to close forever?


As I loved the way Anne Mateer wrote her child characters in Wings of a Dream, I was looking forward to this new book, which is set in a home for destitute children, in the same time period, 1910.

Sadie Sillsby is a young woman happily working as assistant to the matron and looking forward to the time she can marry her sweetheart, Blaine Wellsmith. Hazel, the matron, announces her engagement and Sadie is offered the promotion. The matron is supposed to be a single woman, yet it seems unthinkable to turn down this prestigious offer.

It's cleverly written from Sadie's point of view in such a way that her glaring blind spots are clear to the reader but not to herself. She often behaves in reactive, defensive ways, even when she's floundering over her head. She tends to be too proud to ask for help and has her fair share of unteachable moments. As her personal history is revealed, we get to understand why. And her redeeming feature is her genuine affection for each child under their roof.

This blinkered outlook of hers even extends to other characters. Young Carter, for example, irritated me at first, because we were told he was an innocent, dear boy deep down, but only ever saw the defiant rebel. Finally, Sadie comes to see what she refused to admit all along. And boy, was she rough on poor old Blaine, even toward the very end when her eyes were opened. I think he and Miranda were my favourite characters.

One thing I love about this story is the way the orphanage staff got along together. It's a good object lesson about how much smoother things will run if the proper person is chosen for the job - any job. Lots of square pegs were trying to be forced into round holes. This was the case with Viola, Miranda, Sadie herself, everyone, in fact, except for Mrs Fore.

I appreciated the glimpse behind the scenes of running such a place. The financial pressure was ever-present and very real, as was Sadie's affection for each child and the way it tore her up to say goodbye.

The two main men were well done. Blaine was always the honest, dignified battler who had conquered a difficult past, but Earl Glazier was a complex enough character to save the story from becoming a predictable triangle, as he wasn't quite the shallow dandy you'd expect.

By the end, I applauded Sadie's finest moments. We see it's all about assessing our personal motivation, how much prestige and accolades may influence our decisions, whether or not stepping down may not be as honourable as rising up, and how somebody's calling may be nothing more than a huge strain for another person trying to fill the spot.

I received a copy from Net Galley and Bethany House in return for an honest review.

4 stars

  Home for My Heart, A available from Amazon

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