BOOK TOUR REVIEW: The Heart Does Not Grow Back by Fred Venturini
The Heart Does Not Grow Back
by Fred Venturini
EVERY SUPERHERO NEEDS TO START SOMEWHERE…
Dale Sampson is used to being a nonperson at his small-town Midwestern high school, picking up the scraps of his charismatic lothario of a best friend, Mack. He comforts himself with the certainty that his stellar academic record and brains will bring him the adulation that has evaded him in high school. But when an unthinkable catastrophe tears away the one girl he ever had a chance with, his life takes a bizarre turn as he discovers an inexplicable power: He can regenerate his organs and limbs.
When a chance encounter brings him face to face with a girl from his past, he decides that he must use his gift to save her from a violent husband and dismal future. His quest takes him to the glitz and greed of Hollywood, and into the crosshairs of shadowy forces bent on using and abusing his gift. Can Dale use his power to redeem himself and those he loves, or will the one thing that finally makes him special be his demise? The Heart Does Not Grow Back is a darkly comic, starkly original take on the superhero tale, introducing an exceptional new literary voice in Fred Venturini.
MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
I can’t really say this book is ABOUT any one specific thing. The best way to describe it is that it chronicles the life of main character Dale Sampson from childhood to early adulthood. In middle school, he meets the guy who is to become his best friend and shape his life in unimaginable ways, Mack. Mack is a popular ladies man while Dale is the polar opposite, awkward and quiet. Mack is persuasive, especially so on his friend, and so he drives Dale to make a decision one night that changes everything–and leaves Dale with an inexplicable new ability–he can regenerate.
Dale is somewhat boring as a main character. He is in love with a single woman for most of the book, then when things are revealed to him he moves quickly to another. To me, it was as if he was in love with the idea of being in love. Even though he’s morose most of the time, you can’t help liking him and feeling for him when bad things happen, even though he seems to be responsible for most of them.
The friendship between Dale and Mack is central to the story, and sounds as if it is one sided most of the time. Dale is always there while Mack is womanizing, traveling, and trying to become famous. They even drift apart for a few years, but when Mack learns about what Dale can do they come back together. They seem to truly like each other, and I’m not sure why; each of them has characteristics that make them somewhat horrible.
I have to say I enjoyed the first half of the book a lot more than the second. Seeing Dale discover and test his ability, while coming to terms with how his life had changed, was absolutely beautiful. I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough to see how he would make it through the earth shattering trauma that had happened to him. But once he got into show business, Dale became a completely different person, and he wasn’t as pleasant to get to know anymore. I just didn’t really love the whole reality show thing.
The ending of the book was definitely unexpected, and I’m not sure if I can say definitively that it was happy or sad…but it seemed to be the only way things COULD end. In the end, Dale learned that having himself would have to be enough, and that is a moral we all can take to heart.
About the Author
Fred Venturini grew up in Patoka, Illinois. His short fiction has been published in the Booked Anthology, Noir at the Bar 2, and Surreal South ’13. In 2014, his story “Gasoline” will be featured in Chuck Palahniuk’s Burnt Tongues collection. He lives in Southern Illinois with his wife and daughter.