Open Heart

A Poignant and Gripping Historical Novel About the Enduring Power of Love

Fiction - Literary
450 Pages
Reviewed on 12/26/2020
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Gregory D. Williams is the winner of the Arts and Letters Fiction Prize. His fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in Blue Mesa Review, Elysian Fields, American Fiction, Bosque, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. A graduate of Stanford University and the University of Arizona Medical School, he spent his teenage summers following baseball and whitewashing the trunks of citrus trees.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Open Heart is a work of fiction written in the literary style by author Gregory D. Williams. Self-described as a poignant and gripping historical novel about the enduring power of love, the work is intended for mature reading audiences due to some very moderate scenes of a sexual nature. Focusing on themes such as love, trauma, and aspirations, we find ourselves following the life of Gene Hull, primarily in the 1970s when he is a pre-med student. So begins a tale that fully explores the protagonist’s past influences and those which will set him either on a road to self-destruction or help him forge a brighter future if he can overcome them.

Author Gregory D. Williams has crafted a beautifully penned and slow-burning dramatic read with plenty to offer fans of literary fiction. True to the genre, this is a highly character-led story, and Williams put a great deal of detail and psychological work into protagonist Gene, whose desire to follow in his father’s footsteps is fraught with the horrors of accidents and macabre sights from past and present. Though it is presented in a moderate and accessible way, this has a great emotional impact on the plot and really makes you feel for the young student. Love is also a big theme, one which creeps along until it blooms fully, and to marvelous effect. Overall, I would definitely recommend Open Heart as a very well-written literary work with atmosphere, empathy, and, funnily enough, heart.

Foluso Falaye

Open Heart is an incisive account of Gene Hull's pursuit of love and a medical career and his touching relationship with his family while growing up in Arizona. Little Gene Hull decides he wants to be a doctor when he sees his father attempt to save a dying girl on a family vacation, and thus begins his tumultuous journey towards his dream profession. After his mournful breakup with his high school girlfriend, Patty, Gene meets nurse Sandra while volunteering for Dr. Benjamin Harrington, "the godfather of open-heart surgery in Arizona." Sandra may be the much-needed rebound, but is he ready to experience another relationship that may end in tears? In this sober coming of age story, Gregory D. Williams writes about love, heartbreak, forgiveness, acceptance, and loss.

Some books leave you with important information that could stick for life; things you would not have learned about otherwise. Interestingly, Open Heart is perfect for readers who wish to learn more about open-heart surgery since a major part of the book is dedicated to the subject. Gregory D. Williams narrates an emotional story about health workers dealing with guilt, grief, regret, and life-altering mistakes. With detailed and comprehensive descriptions, it was easy to envision the surgeries and the different scenes. The story of a boy growing up in the 1970s to be a responsible young man while learning from his experiences with lovers, coworkers, and family members captured my emotions considerably. I'm glad to have given Open Heart a try.

Tammy Ruggles

Open Heart: A Poignant and Gripping Historical Novel About the Enduring Power of Love by Gregory D. Williams is a moving coming-of-age story that takes place in the sixties and seventies. This is an extremely engrossing and entertaining novel about young love combined with medical drama. There are two stories that blend into one. One is about a young, would-be medical student, Gene, trying to live up to his father's image, and the other is about Gene grappling with the love he lost in Patty. Since the story is told by a doctor, you'll find heart medicine interwoven with matters of the heart (pun intended). This doctor/author is keenly skilled at bringing you physical details while remembering to romance the emotional details. He does the big picture as well as the finer moments.

Although this novel has been described as a coming-of-age romance, I'd put it in the literary fiction category as well, because of the author's poetic style and timeless themes. He has drawn characters that you can relate to and feel for, and you must find out what happens in their lives. One of my favorite parts is the scene where Gene is forever impacted by his father trying to save a child's life. This sets the stage for Gene's life to unfold, and he strives earnestly to win his father's approval and find true love forever. I really appreciate how well Williams puts you into the time frame he's writing about. The details he uses bring the scenes and characters to life, such as constantly being compared to his well-respected father when he passes out while observing a medical procedure, and his very first sighting of Patty. If you like medical dramas like "ER", "Grey's Anatomy", or "House MD", you'll love Open Heart by Gregory D. Williams. This would make a great movie.

Ruffina Oserio

Open Heart: A Poignant and Gripping Historical Novel about the Enduring Power of Love by Gregory D. Williams is a novel that is original and so skillfully written that readers can experience the different emotions of the protagonist. The story follows Gene Hall, a young man facing unrequited love. But a unique experience when his father, an anesthesiologist by profession, fights to save the life of an injured child at an accident scene inspires the young man. Years later, Gene finds himself groomed for the operation room and, like his father, steps into the real theater of life and death situations. Can he live up to his father’s expectations and find meaning in his work?

This story is brilliant, intelligently plotted, and with characters that readers will adore. A great storyteller writes a novel that strips the human heart bare, exploring emotions that are real, and conjuring images that leap off the pages with a life of their own. The writing is gorgeous and crisp. Descriptions are terrific. The story is filled with details that grab the reader and pull them into the lives of the characters. This medical thriller is fraught with realism, humor, and humanity. It is easy to hear your own heart race as you follow the young protagonist on his journey. Open Heart: A Poignant and Gripping Historical Novel about the Enduring Power of Love is a tale of love, but not the love in the way that most of us have been taught. It is a story about the quest for meaning, about being inspired, and about pursuing a dream that responds to deep-seated longings of the heart.

Rabia Tanveer

Open Heart: A Poignant and Gripping Historical Novel About the Enduring Power of Love by Gregory D. Williams is a coming of age story of a young man as he realizes what it truly means to love and live with passion. Gene discovers his passion for medicine when he witnesses his father trying to save the life of a young girl. He dreams of following in his father’s footsteps and becomes part of the Heart Room with the esteemed Dr. Harrington. However, being part of the Heart Room is not easy. But working there allows him to mend his broken heart, learn to move on, and realize it is his mistakes that make him the man he is today. This is Gene’s journey of self-discovery and finding himself amid the chaos of heart surgery, hospital drama, and more.

The subtitle says it all. Gene is such a wholesome character. He is vulnerable, smart, and not ready to change in the beginning. He is so human in his habits and his stubbornness that I cannot help but feel for him. I love how relatable he is. Gregory D. Williams does an exceptional job of making sure Gene is the kind of universal character that appeals to a large audience. From the opening scene till the end, the author keeps a steady pace that is comfortable. Gene is given enough page space to grow, question, and then develop at his own pace. He is not rushed and the plot moves forward as he does. He understands love at a deeper level, learns that sometimes ambition is not enough, and finds out that you need courage as well as passion to fulfill your dreams. Open Heart is a gentle coming of age story that leaves readers wanting more yet gives them a sense of comfort as they reach the end.