My Heart Went Walking

An Irish tale of love, loss, and redemption

Fiction - Womens
332 Pages
Reviewed on 09/02/2021
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

The only man she’s ever loved is seeing her sister.
And now they have to save her together.

Sally Hanan’s sublime debut mixes the prose of Sue Monk Kidd with the dialogue of Maeve Binchy. With captivating warmth, she pulls us in to how it felt to live in Ireland’s changing culture of the ‘80s, and how it often made a woman’s decisions for her.

“I can’t bear to keep walking. But you can’t keep a secret in this town unless you leave with it.”

Kept apart by their love for one man, two sisters embark on their own paths towards survival, love, and understanding, until they finally meet again in the worst of circumstances. And the reality might break them all.

My Heart Went Walking is a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that sweeps from the small Irish town of Donegal to the “big smoke” of Dublin City; a book that celebrates the pull of family and the chance of redemption. It is a novel for everyone who feels connected to the Irish approach to life—that of grit and laughter—and also for everyone who loves an overriding message of hope and restoration in all things.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jennifer Ibiam for Readers' Favorite

In Donegal, 1983, Una discovered she was pregnant. She confided in her Mam, but it went south when Una was told that she’d have to give up the baby. The family had such huge dreams, and her mother wouldn’t accept anyone shaming the Gallagher name in front of the world. Una disappeared without a trace for some years, going through hell and high water to stay alive for herself and the baby. Unfortunately, cruel fate had it in for the Gallagher girls. Una and her sister, Ellie, met again in unfortunate circumstances. However, she held a secret that could break or make her family if revealed. Will she spill? Is there a place for forgiveness among the lot? Read My Heart Went Walking by Sally Hanan to find out all the details.

My Heart Went Walking by Sally Hanan was a moving and emotional novel. The plot was refreshing, and the storyline had depth. I felt the fierce passion associated with the Irish in the dialogues and narratives. The characters were well developed and relatable, which made the story both realistic and emotionally charged. I laughed a great deal, too. Una was a resilient woman, one who would give her life for those she loved, and I loved her for that. But Ellie and Catherine made it to the top of my favorites list. They were so selfless and shone their light on others. I had nominated Ellie for sainthood a few times before the story ended. Sally Hanan told this story so well, and I enjoyed her using slang (eejit, git, wain, etc.). The end was satisfying, and I’d love to read more from this skilled author in the future.

Pikasho Deka

My Heart Went Walking by Sally Hanan is a slice-of-life tale set in 1980s Ireland. Sixteen-year-old Una Gallagher's life turns upside down when she finds out she's pregnant after spending a drunken night with her crush, Cullen Breslin. After her mother threatens to give the child up for adoption, Una has no choice but to break Cullen's heart and leave the humdrum town of Donegal for Dublin. It takes a while before she has a safe place to stay. While she settles into her life in Dublin, her sister Ellie seeks Cullen's help to search for her. Their time together soon makes Ellie and Cullen fall for each other. But when news of a family tragedy reaches Una's ears, she must return home and right her past mistakes.

Filled with romance and heartbreak, My Heart Went Walking pulls at your heartstrings every step of the way. A character-driven drama at its core, the narrative is somewhat of a slow burn, but the pacing only enriches the story. Author Sally Hanan tells the tale of a woman filled with regret about her past life choices and how the support of her friends and family help her get back on her feet. The characters are easy to root for, and their struggles and mistakes only make them more realistic. Una's evolution from a naive and helpless young girl to a strong woman who isn't afraid to face her problems head-on makes for a captivating character arc. I would highly recommend My Heart Went Walking to readers who enjoy women-centric slice-of-life stories.

Grant Leishman

My Heart Went Walking: An Irish Tale of Love, Loss and Redemption is a debut coming-of-age novel by Sally Hanan that explores the relationships within families and the consequences of the decisions we make in life. When sixteen-year-old Donegal lass, Una, and her best friend forever, Cullen, drunkenly fool around after a party, the result is a pregnant Una. From a strict Catholic family, when Una tells her Mam about the pregnancy, her immediate response is they will have to give the baby to the nuns and put it up for adoption. Horrified by this prospect, Una runs from home to the big city of Dublin without telling anyone, including the father, that she is going to have a baby. Lost and alone in a big city and sheltering under some bushes in a Protestant churchyard, Una is rescued from her perils by a kindly vicar, who manages to find an elderly couple in the congregation who are prepared to help and look after Una, at least until the baby is born. For Una, it is a new start and a chance to have her precious baby without the gossip and condemnation of the small minds of Donegal. She quickly comes to understand, though, what her decision to run will mean for her. She has lost the family she loves, especially her younger sister Ellie and perhaps most importantly, she has lost her best friend, the one she now realizes she has always loved, Cullen.

My Heart Went Walking is a beautifully crafted tale told in three clear and succinct voices; Una, Cullen, and Ellie. Author Sally Hanan’s decision to tell the story from the three perspectives was inspired and allowed the reader to get inside the minds of the three main characters. Set in the early 1980s, this story shows an Ireland rooted in its nationalism, conservatism and its Catholic character which shine through on every page. I particularly enjoyed that the story played second fiddle to the superb characterizations throughout the narrative. For this reader, the characters and their mindsets are everything to the tale, and the author was superb at bringing these to the fore. You will find yourself inside and understanding all the main points of view and decisions, although not always agreeing with them. Through all of Una, Ellie, and Cullen’s travails, there's a continuing theme of the importance of family, and the idea that no person can cut him or herself off and expect to find total contentment. This is a wonderful story that the author uses to convey some deeply philosophical questions about love, loss, and redemption through the eyes of three very young adults. For a debut novelist, this is a great first effort, and hopefully the forerunner of more great character works in the future. I can highly recommend this read.

Ruffina Oserio

My Heart Went Walking: An Irish Tale of Love, Loss, and Redemption by Sally Hanan follows two sisters whose love for the same man results in their separation from each other. It is set in Ireland in the 1980s, and the country is bursting with rapidly changing culture. Una has to make the decision to leave home and find a new family elsewhere. It is the best thing to do. She wants to leave everything behind. Now living and starting her new life with new people she considers family, a situation forces her to come back home. Can the bond between the sisters be rekindled or remain forever destroyed by the love for one man?

The story is told in captivating prose and features wonderfully woven dialogues that allow characters to shine through the drama. The alternating points of view allow readers to experience the psychological and emotional turmoil in each character and the feel of their inner worlds. Una, Ellie, and Cullen are richly written and believable characters. Themes of family, decisions, love, loss, and redemption are deftly crafted. The cultural setting dazzles through every page of this narrative. My Heart Went Walking: An Irish Tale of Love, Loss, and Redemption is a gripping, affecting tale that explores the kinds of bonds and conflict only sisters can experience; it is filled with realism and humanity. Ellie and Una are animated characters, and their differences are delivered with care. Without sparing any details and offering family dynamics that readers can easily resonate with, Sally Hanan has created a bold and page-turning story.

Romuald Dzemo

My Heart Went Walking: An Irish Tale of Love, Loss, and Redemption by Sally Hanan is a debut novel set in Ireland in the 1980s, following two sisters and the inner workings of their hearts as they find themselves embroiled with the same man in the game of love. In Donegal, sixteen-year-old Una Gallaher is pregnant with Cullen Breslin's child. Things are more complicated because her sister, Ellie, is also in love with Cullen. Una leaves home with her unborn child to create a life for herself, but can she survive without the father of her child and a sister she loves deeply? What happens when their paths cross again?

A beautifully written story that features an exciting family drama and deeply flawed and human characters that readers will root for, My Heart Went Walking is a story to read with the heart. The novel offers a passionate, compelling premise that awakens readers' curiosity and stirs strong emotions in them. Readers are surely familiar with love triangles in romances, but this involves two sisters. The author’s development of the theme of family is powerful, and despite the odds, the bond between two sisters might be stronger than the love they have for one man. The pathos is intelligently written, and it draws the reader into the very hearts of the characters. Sally Hanan has the unique gift of writing internal dialogues that plunge readers into the mindscapes of the characters. My Heart Went Walking is written in beautiful prose. It features characters that I adored and an emotionally rich conflict that moves the plot forward in unexpected ways.