Tiffany Fenton’s compellingly honest memoir, A HERO’S HEART, which she notes is “based on a true story,” begins with abandonment by her father. It is quickly followed by physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather, a surly, useless drunk who caused Fenton’s sisters to run away from home. Fenton goes through terrible psychological trauma and abject poverty, but eventually marries and has a daughter. But the daughter is soon diagnosed with kidney disease. Then the home that she and her husband built is destroyed by fire, and finally, Fenton develops cervical cancer.
After reading Fenton’s book, readers may be forgiven for asking, how much tragedy can a heart take before is crumbles altogether? The journey taken by Fenton in A HERO’S HEART seems to be one that only a biblical character like Job could endure. But Fenton is a survivor. She develops a faith in God that ultimately becomes a part of her very being, even though religion played almost no role in her life as a child.
Tim, the man Fenton marries, is supportive, but vague. The reader never learns what he looks like or exactly what he does for a living or even how he spends his time. It is only toward the end of the book that we read that Tim has been married before and has a son. Fenton’s hard-working mother is sympathetic, but also is hardly described. Did Fenton resent that her mother didn’t protect her from her abusive stepfather? The reader never learns if this is so.
Fenton narrates her story often almost as if she is an observer, rather than a participant in her own life. And while distancing herself from her surroundings may have been one of the keys to her survival, faced with what Fenton faced, readers may wish there were more fury and energy in the telling. All criticism aside, A HERO’S HEART is a heart-wrenching book and one that requires fortitude to read. But it is also a book worth plugging through and a testament to the pain and hardship a person can endure, and still emerge as a whole human being.
A HERO’S HEART is compelling, but difficult reading, narrating a life of abandonment, physical and sexual abuse, serious illness and loss. But it also offers a course in survival, even from the severest of tragedies.
~James Bernstein for IndieReader