Refuge of the Heart

Refuge of the HeartRefuge of the Heart by Ruth Logan Herne
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Franciscan Media on September 25, 2015
Pages: 336
Also by this author: Back in the Saddle, More than a Promise

 

It’s not all about books in my life. Almost all 🙂 but not completely. When I’m not reading or blogging or spending time with my family, I stand in front of a room of adults from all over the world and teach them English. (Bear with me, I promise this is absolutely related to my review of Refuge of the Heart.) I myself know mostly just English, like a true American, so it can get quite entertaining in my class as I try to communicate new vocabulary and grammar. But oh.. it’s so much more than words and structure and pronunciation. It’s about hugging someone who maybe has never been hugged before. It’s about laughing until your sides hurt one minute and then having your breath stolen away by the purest friendship the next minute. Teaching English as a Second Language has – without question – completely changed my life.

Ruth Logan Herne so perfectly captured the voice of an educated immigrant, the inflections and the frustrations (idioms!), the struggle and the dignity.

And so, as I read the exquisitely beautiful Refuge of the Heart, I laughed and cried and grinned and sobbed with Magdalena from Chechnya. Ruth Logan Herne so perfectly captured the voice of an educated immigrant, the inflections and the frustrations (idioms!), the struggle and the dignity. It was easy for me to see and hear Lena in my mind as I read. Because, to me, Lena is more than just a tiny but fierce character.

She is my friend from China who got out of my car to watch me pump gas because “I must learn.” That same friend now teaches Chinese in a local elementary school and wins awards left and right. I see her determination in Lena.

She is my friend from Ukraine who told me on a recent Monday that she discovered a new reason to love me that day. Her new reason? I had come into class with a bag on each arm, in her words “like Ukrainian woman in Soviet Union”. Sweet laughter shared together! She is this same dear Ukrainian friend who asked me one day if I ever forgot that I wasn’t talking to Internationals and spoke to Americans in my slow (ESL teacher) voice. “Maybe,” she said with a wink and a precious accent, “they think you have not much skills.” I could hear Lena saying something like that to Mitch 😉

Refuge of the Heart is a romance but it’s so much more.

She is my friend from Uzbekistan who said that she liked my new haircut because I had a pretty elbow, while swiping her hand across her forehead. More delightfully-shared laughter. She is this same friend who asked me to help her understand the Bible while she received her first chemotherapy treatment. As we read the Sermon on the Mount together, she looked up at me and nodded. “This means I have to forgive my ex-husband, yes?” Her abusive ex-husband. I’d heard her story, had cried with her over it, and I was struck temporarily mute in the face of her childlike faith. “Yes,” I managed to croak, my throat tight with emotion, “Yes it does.” To me, Lena has this beautiful friend’s face.

She is my Muslim friend from Iraq who shared her story with me one day as I drove her home from English class. Her family lived in Baghdad. Her husband opened the door of their home one day and a bomb exploded, killing him instantly and injuring her son-in-law and destroying their house. Yet in spite of her horrific loss, she still loves to dance – to Shakira and Beyonce, no less. We have dance parties on the way home sometimes, and surely other motorists are highly entertained. I wanted to have that kind of dance party with Lena and Anna.

So, you see, Refuge of the Heart is a romance but it’s so much more. (And oh, the romance is so incredibly sweet and tender. The way Mitch deliberately pursues Lena and his unabashed affection for Anna… simply swoonable!)

It is a story of hope, of redemption, of courage, of survival.

It is a story that will reach into your heart and squeeze until you feel you can’t breathe from the emotion. It is a story filled with warmth and humor and smiles in spite of the heaviness of loss that both Lena and Mitch have known. It is a story that will open your eyes to the world around you – including the world at your backdoor. It is a story of hope, of redemption, of courage, of survival.

Have some tissues handy when you read this book, but be prepared to smile a lot too! Ruth Logan Herne’s writing style is perfection, as are her characters. This story and its characters – Mitch, Lena, and Anna – have thoroughly captivated me and they will stay in my heart for a long time to come.

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