The weight of war lasts long after the fighting has stopped and for men like Willis, a Canadian soldier who willfully volunteered, the grisly scenes endured during World War II would forever be a burden for not only him, but to those close to him as well. Drowning his post traumatic stress disorder behind a bottle, Willis can’t come to terms with talking about his experiences, even with the ones closest to him, spiraling him into a vicious cycle of financial dependency and condemning behaviors, even long after he appears to have himself and his priorities in order. His wife Ellie, a woman he met and became engaged to during his brief stay in London, is torn between a man she wants to love and support and her sense of duty as a wife and a world of art that for years to come would act as her own sort of therapy. With each harboring their own secrets, is either more to blame than the other?

“It’s a good thing to keep a fire going in the back; just remember to keep moving forward too,”

Readers looking for a quick read with a strong emotional jab won’t be disappointed by the magnetic prose that author Andrea McKenzie Raine has spun in her newest novel, A Crowded Heart. This historical drama blends the emotional and mental turmoil of war with the generational dysfunction that is often the result, entangling so many lives. Readers familiar with Raine’s first novel, Turnstiles, which focuses on Willis Jr, will immediately find the connection in A Crowded Heart, luring them back into the past and uncovering the darkness of their past. However, readers won’t lose a beat by having not read Turnstiles or in reading them out of order–and highly recommend reading both.

This book is justly reminiscent of the writing of the late V.C. Andrews, but with a historical twist, including a perfect blend of family drama shrouded in secrets, social turmoil, and the lurid trickle down effect that can last centuries. Each novel plays out a differing aspect of a character’s storyline while each book flawlessly connects with the other. While this is only the second book in this historic familial drama, I truly hope there are more to come as the mellifluous storyline immerses the reader providing a true sense they know these characters on a personal level. If this is the type of book you find yourself drawn too, then seriously consider A Crowded Heart.