Monday, February 23, 2009


Relationships. If you’re willing to take a risk on a debut novel this year, consider Stephen Lovely’s Irreplaceable. I found myself enjoying this novel more every fifty or so pages as the characters deepened and their lives become more connected. If the protagonist of a novel is the central character, or the heart of the story, in Irreplaceable, the protagonist would be Isabel, or more specifically, her heart. Isabel and her husband, Alex, have been happily married for three years. While riding her bicycle, Isabel is struck by a truck and killed. Having signed an organ donor card, her organs are harvested, and her heart is transplanted into Janet, who teaches art at an inner city school in Chicago. Lovely presents Alex’s grief with great skill, and allows that to play out on these pages, alongside that of Isabel’s mother, Bernice. Having overhead her doctors comment about the source of her new heart, Janet tracks down Alex and tries to find ways to express her thanks. Janet’s own family is dealing with many issues, and Lovely allows those to develop on these pages as well. Another connection comes from the ways in which the driver who killed Isabel, Jasper, enters the lives of Alex, Bernice and Janet. Lovely describes the transplant process with what seemed like accurate thoroughness. He presents intense emotions without making them more outsized than was necessary. His restraint in developing some characters, such as Janet’s husband, David, was in many ways a strength, while it left some gaps in understanding David as a real person. All in all, Irreplaceable is a promising debut by a talented writer.

Rating: Three-star (Recommended)

Click here to purchase Irreplaceable from

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