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A return to the beloved world of Evergreen

Iris Stern carries her deceased mother’s proud courage and staunch sense or rightness with her wherever she goes. She’s instilled it in each of her four children and, although she can’t say that she love every decision they have made, Iris is proud of whom they’ve become. More than anything, though, she has remained steadfastly true and loving to her husband, Theo.

But as the tumultuous ‘70s turn into the 1980’s, Iris finds that her way of life might be outdated. Suddenly, she realizes that, despite her rules creating an entirely honorable way of living, they haven’t prepared her children for the curves life is throwing at them.

Laura loves her mother Iris and tries to emulate her in every way possible, particularly her devotion to her husband and daughter. Over time, though, wearied by their lack of money and her husband’s weak ego, she finds herself wanting to be alone. When a photographer enters her life to document her new business endeavor, she finds her resolve wavering. Can she be the woman she and her mother want her to be?

Belva Plain’s Heartwood is a masterful tale of the true bonds of family, and how sometimes those bonds can be terrifyingly tight. Through Iris and Laura, Plain demonstrates the centuries old struggle between mother and daughter, old and new, desire and obligation. Each woman is entirely relatable, making it impossible for a reader to not have an opinion of the rightness or wrongness of their behavior and beliefs. The sequel to Plain’s acclaimed novel Evergreen, Heartwood is an example of the late author’s skill and understanding of human behavior. 

Book Blurb for Heartwood

Few authors have understood the tender intricacies of relationships better than the incomparable Belva Plain. For three decades her deeply moving epics have captivated the hearts and imaginations of readers everywhere. Now, in her final novel, she comes full circle with the themes she took up in her very first work, Evergreen, bringing us this unforgettable story of family and friendship, love and marriage, the challenges of life and the true secret of happiness.

Though Iris Stern considers herself a modern woman, with a successful academic career and a happy marriage, she still holds steadfast to her old-fashioned sensibilities. But as the mother of three adult children, each with their own lives and burdens to bear, she often finds those sensibilities called into question when confronted with the choices her children have made.

For one of Iris’s daughters, it’s the choice of a fresh start in New York City—and a last chance to save her troubled marriage. While Laura and Robbie cope with an impending separation and its effect on Iris’s young granddaughter, Iris herself must come to grips with the discovery of a long-held family secret. But it’s an emotional parting of another kind that looms most prominently on Iris’s horizon—as neither her beloved husband, nor the solidity of her own marriage, is immune to the ravages of time.

Through separations and reunions, the changes we cannot avoid and the love that sustains, Iris will weather whatever lies ahead with a faith that cannot be shaken. Like the inmost rings of a tree that abide through the generations, she will be as strong as heartwood.

Night Owl Reviews Mar, 2011 4.75