HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Jack of Hearts
Author: Chris Collins
Publisher: WestBowPress, 2014
Related website: http://www.westbowpress.com (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 13 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Collins, Chris. Jack of Hearts (published in 2014 by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, 1663 Liberty Dr., Bloomington, IN 47403). It is sometime in the middle part of the first half of the nineteenth century, and five year old Elizabeth Walden is on a ship with her parents Jacob and Rachel, her four older brothers Luke, Lance, Lewis, and Levi, her baby sister Ella, and her Granna and Grandad, emigrating from Ireland to Virginia. Many of her uncles, aunts, and cousins from both of her parents’ families, including her other grandparents, are already there. However, there is a storm, and the ship is wrecked just off the coast. Elizabeth and Ella are saved by a nine year old orphan boy, Alex Jack who is working for the ship’s captain, and the remainder of the family also survives. They all land in Charlestown, and Alex goes with the Waldens to western Virginia where they settle with the rest of the relatives and Alex is adopted by Dr. and Mrs. Stickle. What will happen to Elizabeth as she grows up in her new home?
Author Chris Collins lives in rural Highland County, Ohio, with her husband and three dogs. I was raised in Highland County and picked this book up in the local historical society museum when back there on a recent visit. What attracted me to it was the statement about Collins on the back flap that said, “Her faith in God and Jesus Christ is the most important thing in her life, and her family comes in a close second.” The flap also said, “Her family history originates from Ireland and later the hills of West Virginia.” It would be interesting to know if there are specific people and events in her family’s background which gave rise to and are depicted in the book or whether it is a purely fictional story that is just set in that time and place. In any event, it is a heartwarming and sometimes tear-provoking account of Elizabeth’s life from early childhood through the beginnings of “old age.” Jack of Hearts is not written for children, but it has nothing unsuitable for youngsters so that it could well be done as a family read aloud.
Sometimes the plot moves rather fast as time passes by quickly while at other times it slows down to focus on certain happenings, but it is usually quite easy to follow. Certainly there are scenes of sadness. Elizabeth’s best childhood friend, Bessie Lawson, perishes in a flood. Grandparents and then parents grow old and pass on. Her father and one brother are killed while fighting for the Union in the Civil War. Elizabeth loses her firstborn child. Other loved ones die in a fever epidemic. But there are also occasions of great joy—marriages, births of children and grandchildren, graduations, etc. And through it all Elizabeth and her family approach whatever happens with a deep faith in God. Numerous references to prayer, church attendance, and baptism occur, and a beautiful picture is drawn of the love that can exist in a multi-generational, extended family. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical romance.