Save Your Prayers

True Stories From a Nation Held Hostage

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
449 Pages
Reviewed on 10/29/2019
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Save Your Prayers: True Stories From A Nation Held Hostage is a work of intense historical fiction based on real experiences and was penned by author Jules Heartly. Literary and poignant in its quality and message, this heartfelt work explores the nature of those who are left behind in times of violence and tragedy, and the lengths they must go to in order to rebuild some semblance of a balanced life for themselves and their families. When Myla’s husband Luis is whisked away by guerrillas in Colombia in 1999, so begins her journey to set him free, whilst also providing for their children and keeping herself alive in a tense and brutal time where violence lurks around every corner.

Based on the real-life kidnapping that took place at La Maria church in 1999, this well-considered and powerfully emotive tale ticks all the boxes for both fictional entertainment and harrowing true-life drama. The perspective that author Jules Heartly embeds within the novel is truly unique, turning the lens specifically to Myla and her experience as a relative, rather than the kidnapped Luis himself. This twist allows us into a far more relatable world of ordinary people trying to survive extraordinary circumstances, sharing in the well-penned and empathetic heartbreak that Myla faces in every day of her struggle. The plot is beautifully crafted to take us through her epic journey but also pauses to give us time to feel as she feels in the fraught atmosphere. Overall, I’d certainly recommend Save Your Prayers for factual historical fans and those who enjoy emotive literary drama.

Lesley Jones

It seemed like any other Sunday in May 1999 when Luis Vasquez attended Sunday Mass at La Maria Chruch in Cali, Colombia with his children. But when a group of ELN guerillas entered the church, it would change the lives of the 184-strong congregation forever. Luis and the other hostages, including women and children, had to witness the death of one of the congregation, before being bundled onto cattle trucks, their fate unknown. Some of the hostages are freed but one large group, including Luis, is marched into the wilderness. Based on true-life accounts, Save Your Prayers by Jules Heartly is a story of true strength of faith and determination to survive all the psychological and physical torment their captors force them to endure. As the long torturous process of negotiations for their release begins, the relatives face months of anguish as they try to remain optimistic that they will see their loved ones again.

Save Your Prayers: True Stories From a Nation Held Hostage by Jules Heartly is an exceptional and compelling tale of human strength and fortitude. The talent the author has to build a scene was superb. I felt each emotion experienced by the characters, especially Luis, Annabella, and Myla. I thought the way the story switched between the perspectives of the hostages and their relatives made the story much more engaging. Annabella showed great empathy and intelligence when she began communicating with the guerillas; it also gave an insight into the guerillas' mindset. Myla had an amazing emotional strength throughout and a determination to bring her husband to safety, which was brave and admirable. Although the storyline was extremely tense, there were moments of light-heartedness, such as the beehive incident and the moment The Lion Group was named. This showed how strong the human character can be; even in moments of terror, they could find humor in some situations. The relationship dynamics between the hostages and their captors were very interesting to follow too. The aftermath of the kidnapping was depicted perfectly, as each of the captors deals with their nightmares and fractured emotions.

Jamie Michele

Save Your Prayers: True Stories From a Nation Held Hostage by Jules Heartly is a fictional retracing of the real-life kidnapping of over one hundred churchgoers attending Sunday mass in May of 1999, at the La Maria Roman Catholic Church in Cali, Colombia. Told from intersecting points of view and combining the experiences of multiple hostages, Heartly paints a vivid picture of the first terrifying moments when dozens of guerrillas of the National Liberation Army—the ELN—burst into the church and pushed the congregation into two waiting cattle trucks. Among them are women and children, most of whom are abandoned as the journey to the countryside and into the mountains progressed. The remaining hostages are held in a remote camp, while their families and those left behind struggle to hold what is left of their lives together.

Save Your Prayers is a deeply poignant and emotional novel, and Jules Heartly weaves the viewpoints of different characters tightly together to create a beautiful, heartbreaking, and inspirational tale. The characters are thoroughly developed and easy to immediately connect with, their terror resonating as the story unfolds. Although this is the first I'd heard of the La Maria kidnapping, I've read my fair share of kidnap, ransom, and hostage suspense thrillers, and this is the first that I could feel in my bones. Perhaps it is because it was a real event and the book is written based on the experiences of many survivors, or maybe it's because Heartly's retelling is so compelling that it feels almost as character-driven as it is by the plot. In any event, this is a book that will delight all who enjoy the genre. Highly recommended.