I started reading An Open Heart by Harry Kraus on June first, just as an evening thunder storm began. The intensity of this book matched the storm outside and I almost forgot where I was as I read. I say "almost" because this book is so good and so powerful that I had to pause every few minutes and look up to breathe, thereby seeing my own surroundings once again and being reminded of where I was.
I don't want to give away a single plot surprise in this review, because I want you to discover them for yourself so I will limn out the story line very briefly and then try to give my reaction to this epic novel in a few words.
Jace Rawlings was a missionary kid whose formative years were so steeped in African culture that their traditional cuisine and their chai tea remains his idea of comfort food.
Even after all the years as a very skilled and successful heart surgeon in America, Jace remembers.
He remembers watching his father operate in the clinic, he remembers all the details of the ministry's work and the sacrifice and painful choices that missionary doctor's must make.
He remembers his twin sister Janice.
And he remembers the songs, prayers and Scriptures of the faith he is running from.
He can't forget any of it.
Jace leaves America amidst a firestorm of malevolent media attention and allegations of an affair that he can can neither counter nor substantiate.
The near death experience that gave him amnesia also seems to be calling him back to Africa. And so he returns.
He returns to the beauty and cruelty that is Kenya, a land of contrasts: the crystal clear stars spread over the corruption in the cities and disease in the slums.
He returns to the place where he grew up and the place he tried to grow away from.
Leaving his wounded and questioning wife in America, he reenters this world and takes the reader right there with him.
With hearts stopped on the operating table, their owners suspended above death, and a battle for the surgeon's soul raging, there is enough controversy to fill all 400+ pages of this book, and I'm not telling you a quarter of all the secrets that are revealed.
After ending this book you will be moved to go and open up your Bible. I am going to read my Bible as soon as I finish this review.
I will leave you with two quotes from the book that should further intrigue you, and hopefully encourage you to pick this novel up: "In Kenya, we are used to facing obstacles."
And: "Most who give up so much are motivated by gratitude," He paused and looked across the table at Jace. "Or guilt."
And now to pass my copy on to my Dad, who wanted to read An Open Heart after seeing my face as I read it and hearing my run-down of it. Thank you Mr. Kraus and David C. Cook for sending me my review copy!
Harry Kraus's tagline is Grace From the Cutting Edge, and that is a perfect description of his books.
I'm a ragamuffin, just a fallen man who struggles with all the same problems you do. But I've discovered the wonder of a relationship with God, who reached out to me in the most spectacular way.
God's grace is a theme that runs through many of my novels as well as my non fiction books. Our self image, our self worth, needs to be derived from God's love for us, not by something as changing as our own performance.
Harry Kraus, M.D. is a board-certified surgeon, medical missionary to East Africa, and accomplished writer of both non-fiction and fiction. Medical realism and gripping plotlines distinguish his writing, as he gets most of his ideas with a scalpel in hand. Dr. Kraus resides in Kenya with his wife Kris and the youngest of his three sons.