In Every Heartbeat is the newest Christian historical fiction release of Kim Vogel Sawyer.
The early tensions and rumbles of World War I is the talk of all the newspapers and the backdrop as Libby, Pete, and Bennett enter their first year of college in 1914. As scholarship students leaving their orphanage home (where none of them were ever adopted) for the first time, the three close friends are both excited and apprehensive about their future. Libby dreams of being a famous journalist, Pete wishes to fulfill his calling of becoming a minister, and Bennett isn't quite sure what he wants to do except have a blast and maybe pledge a fraternity.
Problem is, as close as the three were in their many years at the orphanage, their different goals and hopes begin to slowly pull them apart. Before they know it, their lives seem to rarely overlap. But when Libby stumbles across a piece of information that has to do with Pete's past and the family that abandoned him it could either be what brings the three friends back together, or finally tears them apart for good.
First off, the environment of college in 1914 is immediately interesting and the fact that the story revolves around three friends gives In Every Heartbeat loads of directions to go, which I really liked right away. Plus, it doesn't take long to see that Libby, Pete, and Bennett's personalities were going to easily jump off the page and become real - colorful individuals with a wealth of vivaciousness, secret hopes, and a lingering of hurt from their early lives.
With each character being only 18 years old, In Every Heartbeat is again a novel I can see the YA crowd enjoying, if you YA lovers (of which I am one) were wondering. ;)
To be honest, Libby came across to me as a bit annoying at first. I wasn't sure if I was going to like this headstrong, impulsive, lone female character. But as time went on Kim Vogel Sawyer's immense writing skills persuaded me to come around and begin to really like her - not to mention all of the other characters, which are portrayed in a grounded, mature, believable way - making it easy for a bibliophile like me to want to follow their stories with eagerness.
In Every Heartbeat is, at its core, a coming-of-age tale - stock full of raw, painful love triangles that are both unrequited and unrealized. The essence of confusion, the anguish of misunderstanding, the ache of wishing you could take back words said aloud, and the yingyang of choosing to fear or embrace life changes is truthful and relatable to everyone, as these experiences are a part of life - the only difference is that Libby, Pete, and Bennett are going through it in 1914.
I came to deeply care about these three people as they became more and more real to me as the novel went on. I cared about their domestic life, one dealing with living with a disability, all three dealing with childhoods rife with the memories of being unwanted, uncared for, and barely surviving before the orphanage found them and gave them a home.
It is also rapturously romantic, yet full of the twist and pull of differing paths, goals, and life choices that can destroy the beginning admission of love. In Every Heartbeat especially kicks in with its romantic punch around 150 pages, giving enough time to know the characters and have invested interest in the shape the plot is taking.
The divisions in friendship feel raw and real, a tribute to Kim Vogel Sawyer's writing ability. I almost felt like I was watching an epic period piece play out - very engrossing, heartbreaking, moving, inspiring, and understatedly beautiful.
Faith, belief, and trust in God play large roles later on in the novel, though not so heavyhandedly as to turn away the reader that doesn't necessarily read Christian fiction but enjoys historical fiction/romance. But this is definitely an excellently written treat for Christian readers.
Every once in a while In Every Heartbeat got a tad preachy and bit touchy-feely - but that line was only crossed a few times, in my opinion, and never watered down the pure magic of being swept away to this time period and becoming wrapped up in these three intertwining lives. If you give it a chance and pick it up, I'd be surprised if you don't feel the same.
*I received a copy of In Every Heartbeat from the Bethany House Book Reviewers program, which you can check out here. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.