Review: The Legacy of Lucy Harte by Emma Heatherington

The Legacy of Lucy Harte is something of a wonder. This book promises to be life-affirming and poignant and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Not my usual cup-of-tea, this cover highlighted one woman’s search and discovery for a better life. This is certainly the main strand of the novel, but without ever getting trapped in cliché, the protagonist leads us from her manic beginning through a heart-warming story.

Maggie O’Hara is 34, a successful business woman who rocks a power suit, and is slowly losing the will to live. Recently separated, Maggie spends most of her days hiding from her concerned family and friends, drinking away her pain and turning up late for work. At 34, Maggie should have it all, but somehow she hasn’t quite met her own expectations for life. This thread is something that is becoming more familiar within narratives, and it’s something we should be proud to see.

After years of feminism telling young girls they can have it all, it’s finally time to acknowledge the pressure this places on women. Success is something that is relative to the person, but so often we categorise it by other people’s standards. Maggie, like many of us, felt that meant a high-stress career, marriage and eventually children. After her husband of seventeen months, “safe” teacher Jeff, leaves her for a young air stewardess, she soon realises that she’s not quite truly living her life.

The kicker? Seventeen years ago, Maggie was granted a new heart taken from a dead fourteen year old girl, Lucy Harte. Maggie visits a church every year and talks to Lucy, and she wonders whether she has truly lived well enough to pay tribute to this young girl, to her heart.

However, this year’s heart anniversary will prove integral to Maggie’s future. Her boss, concerned for her personal welfare, urges her to take a paid break and recover. After passing out drunk at home again, Maggie wakes to find a letter from Tain, Scotland – Lucy’s home. After failed attempts to make contact with the Hartes through hospital channels, it seems the family has finally reached out to her. Maggie has always needed this closure, to say thank you, to express her gratitude to this grieving family. Simon Harte, Lucy’s brother, grants this chance.

The need to share both their sides of the same story is paramount. And both are desperate for a meeting. Maggie’s is fairly simple. A healthy girl finds out she has congenital heart disease and, luckily, after two weeks in hospital is granted a new heart. The Harte’s is somewhat darker. An alcoholic mother who causes her own death and that of her daughter’s in a car collision. Simon and Lucy’s brother, Henry, is also left with severe brain damage and in need of constant care ever since. A twenty-eight year old man with the mind of a young boy.

This isn’t even a third of the way through the book, but the message here is clear. Maggie must live better, and make the most of her heart. Her husband puts the final nail in the coffin that is their marriage by announcing his new girlfriend is pregnant, and Maggie promptly knocks him out. Soon to return home to Scotland, Simon grants Maggie a lifeline. A tin that Lucy had kept, filled with different things – clippings from newspapers, photos and trinkets. After finding a ‘things I want to do when I grow up’ list, Maggie is spurred into action. She needs a focus, a new life, and this is it.

The book then breaks into Maggie’s adventures and discoveries based on diary entries and wishes from Lucy. The combination of a woman’s desperate struggle to find relief from her pain combined with a young girl’s musings on an unhappy household and future dreams is somewhat bittersweet but on the whole, I can’t believe I’m saying this, life-affirming. Maggie isn’t perfect, she has breakdowns, setbacks and for all of this, she is all the more real. The book covers everything from life-threatening illnesses, family drama and divorce. This is a protagonist who is struggling, and thankfully it’s real struggle, relatable struggle, and that is why you can’t help but read this book cover to cover.

With beautiful settings ranging across the world including Ireland, Scotland, France and even Nashville this is a pleasant, scenic read that feels wonderfully easy to get through.

Maggie, and Lucy, are relatable and following their path together draws you in and sets the tone for a narrative that is funny, sweet and makes you want to go out and explore. This is a book that I would gladly pass along to friends and one that took me by surprise, but in the best of ways. A book that is never dull, and doesn’t fall into the trap of creating a character that is utterly selfish, or at least not for long. A good read for the New Year that’ll hopefully make you want to travel, and turn those old wishes into memories. While organ donation doesn’t seem like the lightest topic, this book handles it with care and a delicacy that is pure and honest. Without ever getting too dark or heavy, The Legacy of Lucy Harte lives up to the hype and will make you laugh along the way.

To pre-order The Legacy of Lucy Harte by Emma Heatherington, click here. The e-book will be released 6th January with the paperback released 12th January.

The Legacy of Lucy Harte is published by Harper Impulse, and author Emma Heatherington can be found @emmalou13 on Twitter and Emma Heatherington Writer on Facebook.

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