Hearts Set Free

Written by Jess Lederman⎮ Narrated by Alison Maglaughlin

Author: Jess Lederman
Narrator: Alison Maglaughlin
Length: 12 hours and 24 minutes
Publisher: Jess Lederman
Released: January 06, 2020
Genre: Literary Fiction; Christian

An Epic Tale of Love, Faith, and the Glory of God's Grace

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Synopsis

"Readers of inspirational fiction will love this moving story that affirms the power of God's mercy." (Publisher's Weekly)
The Alaska Territory, 1925: Thirteen-year-old Luke couldn’t be prouder of his father, whose heroic efforts have just saved thousands of lives. but his world turns upside down when dad abandons his family for a beautiful reporter from New York. Luke's mother, Yura, vows to win back her husband and kill the woman who stole his heart, and she and Luke embark on an epic cross-country quest that will lead them to the Nevada desert, and to truths - and terrors - of which they'd never dreamed.
Reno, Nevada, 1930: Boxer David Gold, a Bible-school dropout who fights as the Pummelin' Preacher, is nearing the end of his career and feeling hopelessly far from God. Then one day, a former call girl who hails from a railway stop called Las Vegas shows up at his door. She's part of a rag-tag congregation whose pastor has been murdered; the killer is still at large, they haven't a cent to pay David, but they need a fighting man to shepherd the tiny Church of the Heart Set Free. Her proposal seems sheer madness - after all, he's not really a preacher, how can he possibly do these people any good? But the Spirit is at work; it's already brought a mother and son from Alaska into his life, and now it's telling him to say yes....
Las Vegas, 2011: Science Cable T.V. big-wig Tim Faber is an arrogant narcissist determined to prove that mankind has no need of God, while his producer, Joan Reed, is trying to regain the faith of her youth. They've come to Vegas to meet with 99-year-old Luke and David Gold’s grandson, Daniel, two men who hold the key to a mystery they must solve - and answers that will forever change their lives.
"Bold and forthright writing that would set any heart on fire." (Christian blogger Miranda A. Uyeh)

Meet the Author: Jess Lederman

After I graduated with a degree in music from Columbia University, a lust for expensive pianos drew me into an unexpected career in finance. It turned out that I had a knack for business; I gained much that the world had to offer and became a hedonist, a gambler who haunted the poker rooms of Las Vegas, and an arrogant atheist. I’ve written fiction for most of my life, and at one point I quit work to devote myself to writing a novel. During that time, my late first wife, Teri, and I lived in Paris, down the street from where Hemingway once lived, and later in the mountains of Idaho. But the novel was never published, for my soul had not yet awakened, and I did not yet have anything important to say. So I went back to the business world.

One day, when we were living in Dallas, Teri heard a radio interview with Francis Collins, an eminent scientist who wrote The Language of God, which tells the story of his journey from atheism to becoming a disciple of Christ.  Collins’ book led us to the writings of C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald*, who became the midwives of our rebirth from above.

There’s no hiding from the Hound of Heaven, once He’s on your trail!

Several years later, Teri was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and we left Dallas and the business world behind and moved to a small town in Alaska. There we looked out on the glory of God’s creation and read to our heart’s content during the last two years of her life. Faced with tragedy, we learned  to trust utterly in Him, and He blessed us with the peace that surpasses all understanding.

It was after Teri’s death, while I was still living in the far north, that the idea for Hearts Set Free—which opens in the Alaska Territory in 1925was born. People who know that the novel contains autobiographical elements (and several historical characters) sometimes ask me, “How much of the story is true?’ And I answer, “Perhaps twenty percent—and the rest is even more true!” What drives my writing is the desire to convey truths that transform lives. Truths of the heart.

In 2013, I met a wonderful woman—my current wife, Ling—and soon we began talking about having children. “Impossible!” said our doctors. “According to your test results, there’s no chance at all, even using  the latest techniques.” Of course, within two months of that pronouncement, Ling was pregnant with little David, who just turned three, and we subsequently adopted Daniel, who’s now twelve.

After David’s birth, we moved to southwest Washington. I’m currently at work on a novel set in Las Vegas in 1955, and, when I’m not writing or chasing my sons around, can usually be found at the piano playing Chopin nocturnes for Ling.

Benjamin's Review

4.5 Stars

In the last week, I’ve listened to Kitty Hendrix's narration of the 100 year old novel Main Street by Sinclair Lewis. The writing is certainly personal and engaging. Ms. Hendrix narration matches it perfectly. Ostensibly, Main Street is in a way about every Main Street in America, viewed through the lens of one character, Carol Kendicott, on one fictional town of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota. As the story begins, Carol is a college graduate, soon to be librarian. She has grand plans to make some small town a place worth living, in her own meaning of the term. She, in due course of time meets Dr. Will Kendicott & moves to the town of 3000 in high hopes of accomplishing her dreams.

Main Street of Gopher Prairie unfortunately isn’t ready to be molded by the young idealist. The main body of the story is Carol gradually coming to terms with who she is, who she wants to be, and where exactly that fits in a very slowly evolving society.

Whenever I read or listen to a book, I make comparisons in my mind and question what the author’s purpose was. In a sense, Sinclair Lewis in this book is an American Charles Dickens. Statements are made, sometimes overtly and sometimes less so about some of the injustices of our society (or in this case, the American small town society of the 1910’s). But unlike Dickens, there is no deep plot as it were. Ultimately, this story is a snapshot of one woman's life, becoming a wife, mother, community member, rebel, nursemaid and so forth. Though Lewis extensively paints the picture of Gopher Prairie and the sometimes caricaturized inhabitants, ultimately, I felt like this story is about 1 person – Carol, who is a stand in for Sinclair Lewis himself. Main Street is inevitable (kind of like Thanos?). It will be what it will be. Society will go on much as it has.

But where does Carol fit? Where do I fit & where do you fit? Again and again I was struck with the conflict that was Carol. My biggest takeaways are to 1- know yourself, TRULY know yourself, 2 – Be TRUE to yourself. Figure out what that means and be authentic to yourself & those around you, and 3- Accept others as they are. They have ambitions, doubts, things they’re passionate about & things that will never interest them. But in this book, Carols assumptions about others and her assumption that she can change others creates unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

There were several times when listening to Main Street that I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. It’s a book that makes you think. And it makes you think about how you might think you are better than others and where you’re wrong. And even a century later, it's incredibly relevant. Technology may have made it much easier to connect with anyone, anywhere, but ultimately, Main Street is still seen in every small town to whatever small community you are a part of. I especially liked Carol's realization that in the big city, she would be interacting with a similarly small community of people ultimately. We are who we are, and it has less to do with the setting we are in and more to do with how comfortable we are in the shoes we've chosen to inhabit.

So – Rating the book – Writing – 5 stars. Plot – 3 stars. If you’re looking for an engaging page turner, mystery, or action, the plot is not what drives this book. It just follows Carol and Main Street through several years. If you want a book to make you think, check out Main Street.

This is the first book I’ve listened to by Kitty Hendrix & she did fabulous on it. Sometimes I found her male characters a little caricatured, but that was as much the writing as her narration.

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