My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Source: Received from Bethany House to review
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Book Description: Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But when she receives a shocking telephone call from her sister, Jewel, everything she's worked for begins to crumble.
After the sudden death of Jewel's husband, Jewel needs Lula's help. With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister. But the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Neither subject belongs anywhere near the halls of academia, according to Lula!
Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year, determined to do well and prove herself to the town. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys' coach, Chet, to learn the game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She's returning to college as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet.
However, the more time she spends in Dunn, the more Lula realizes God is working on her heart--and her future is beginning to look a lot different than she'd expected.
My thoughts: This book took me to a time period that I rarely read about in historical fiction. It is set in the Early 1900's during World War I.
Lula wants to study mathematics. This is an unusual endeavor that is frowned on by many in society. It is not a typical want for a young woman. She is expected to find a man to take care of her. Not to have a mind and desires of her own. She is in a graduate program teaching mathematics at a university when she receives news that change the course of her future.
Coming home to her grieving sister who has just been widowed was not supposed to stall her collegiate aspirations. She finds that she must put her dreams on hold to take care of her sister and young family. Teaching music and becoming a basketball coach provided a means to an end, but was not her chosen career.
I found it fascinating to learn a little about girls basketball in the early 20th century. The many rules and restrictions were entertaining and helped me be a more grateful that I live in this century. I loved that Lula was forging a new path for women in academia. What I loved more was her willingness to put aside her dreams and serve her sister, nieces, and nephews. She didn't come upon the decision lightly. She pondered and prayed. She sought the better part.
Chet is also staging and emotional and metal battle. His father deserted, leaving a stain on the family name that his mother wants him to redeem. He also sets aside his desires to take care of his mother, in spite of her negative attitude and constant reminders that he is not living up to her expectation.
Both Chet and Lula strive to help the students of their local high schools. As teachers they are in a position to mentor and help teens learn and grow. Both take this responsibility seriously. Their desire to serve the students is one of the factors that help them find common ground. The choices they made were not easy, but led to a heartwarming story.
I enjoyed reading Playing by Heart and look forward to reading more books by Anne Mateer.
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