To the outside world, Savannah Trover has it all. She and her doting husband, Shaun, have a college-aged daughter and live in a beautiful home. She is a successful author and in-demand motivational speaker. She has her own ministry, Abide & Abound (A&A), which is run by her husband. She has great friends and is adored by everyone.
During her latest speaking tour, Savannah gets sick. She chalks it up to the flu, but when she isn't getting better, she agrees to see the doctor. He informs her that it's not a virus that will simply pass. Savannah has congestive heart failure and needs a heart transplant. She's put on the waiting list and, as time goes on, her faith grows. She has never felt closer to God. She puts her trust in Him and knows everything will be okay. Sure enough, a heart becomes available and Savannah's heart transplant is successful. At least in the physical sense.
Almost from the moment Savannah gets out of surgery, darkness clouds her soul. The strong faith she experienced just prior to her transplant vanishes into thin air, replaced with anger, bitterness and doubt. She doesn't understand her emotions, but is certain it's not depression. She pushes her husband and daughter away and finds herself questioning whether God even exists at all.
Shaun has no idea who his wife is anymore. But besides Savannah's strange behavior, he has other things to worry about. He's in deep financial debt and is fudging A&A's books. He is also being blackmailed, which adds an air of mystery to the story.
Then there is Savannah's and Shaun's daughter, Jessie, who is angry with her mother. Jessie feels the ministry has always come before her and that her mom is too busy disapproving of her choices to even see the woman she is becoming. She longs for a good relationship with Savannah, but feels hopeless that it will ever happen.
Savannah eventually connects with the sister of the man whose heart had been transplanted into her chest. When she finds out that he was an atheist, she can't help wondering if that has something to do with the spiritual turmoil she's been in since the surgery. She does some research and learns about Cellular Memories, a theory that memories are stored not only in the brain, but in certain cells throughout the body, including the heart.
Without giving the story away, this discovery is the turning point to Savannah's healing. Shaun's secret regarding his financial troubles is also revealed, bringing with it another element of conflict.
We meet several interesting characters along the way, including Tabitha, Savannah's old college roommate, and Aniyah, the feisty daughter of a voodoo priestess, whose friendship and testimony impacts Savannah's life in an unexpected way.
THE HEART OF MEMORY is much more than a story about a woman who gets a heart transplant. This is a journey of faith lost and restored. Most, if not all, of us go through periods of doubt where we question God and everything we've ever believed in. Questioning our beliefs is not always a bad thing, as that is what often produces our greatest growth. In that regard, we can relate to Savannah as she grapples with her faith. The book does not end with all of the loose ends tied up nicely, but leaves the reader satisfied, with a hefty dose of hope. Hope for broken family relationships. Hope in forgiveness for making poor choices. For restoration. For renewed faith.
Author Alison Strobel is known for writing books that explore life, love and faith. THE HEART OF MEMORY hits the mark on all three of these elements. This is a book that may very well leave an imprint on both your memory and your heart.
Reviewed by Lynda Schab on March 29, 2011