Review by Marlene Engel
Kate’s world quickly gets turned upside down when her husband’s life is taken by a drunk driver. Now, over ten years later, Kate has started a new life with her fiancé, Dan. Although he’s a great guy, there’s something missing. And, the dreams she’s having, involving her late husband Patrick and their non-existent, deaf daughter, has her wondering if Patrick is trying to tell her something from beyond the grave.
The recurring dreams have effected Kate so much that she enrolls in a sign language class in the hope of communicating better with her “dream daughter”. As the classes progress, so does her friendship with the teacher. And, when he learns that she is a music therapist, he wonders if her profession, along with her new-found signing ability, can be used to help some of the hard of hearing foster children that he works with open up and better express their feelings. The more Kate works with them, the more she begins to think that her dreams were meant to lead her to this life. A life where she can make a difference for others and a life where everyone just wants to find happiness.
As a book blogger, I’m fortunate to be asked to read and review books. But there are certain books that have such a huge impact on me. Books that I know I’ll be thinking about well after I’ve finished reading the last page. This book is definitely one of them. Not only does it hit close to home with me knowing what it’s like to lose a family member, but I also was a foster parent who only took in special needs children. As I read this book, I swear it could’ve been based on my life.
The author writes with such passion and detail that you forget that you’re reading a book and not watching the scenes unfold before you. The characters feel so real, their emotions so raw and the story was pure gold. It’s books like this one that reminds me why I fell in love with reading in the first place. I couldn’t think of a better book to close out 2014 and ring in 2015 with than The Life Intended.
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Interview by Marlene Engel
I would like to welcome the incredibly talented Kristin Harmel to our blog! Thank you for taking the time to come and chat with us!
You touched on some sensitive subjects such as death, infertility and special needs children in your new book. What made you choose these particular topics?
It sounds crazy – I mean, it seriously sounds like I’ve flipped my lid – but I honestly
woke up one morning with about 85% of the plot of this novel in my head. That sounds particularly nutty, considering that the book is partially about dreams (the vivid dreams the main character, Kate, has of her deceased husband, Patrick), but it’s true! The elements of death (namely Patrick’s) and special needs children were already there when I woke up, and as I began to plot the novel in earnest, Kate’s infertility just seemed to fit. But experts say you dream about the things weighing on your mind, right? So for me, I suppose the dream I had was probably sparked by a few things: 1) My good friend Melixa works for Easter Seals, and through volunteering with her organization, I’ve had a lot of exposure to special needs kids (although not hard of hearing children specifically). 2) I’m 35, and I just got married in March, so one of my own fears is that I’ll have trouble getting pregnant when we’re ready to try, simply because fertility declines as we get older. 3) Also along the lines of having just gotten married, one of the worst things in the world I can imagine right now is losing my husband. That’s what happens to Kate very soon after her wedding, and frankly, that’s a thought that terrifies me. So perhaps all three of those elements went into making me dream as I did!
As a former foster parent, who only took in special needs children, this book hit home. Why did you choose to incorporate not only foster children, but foster children with special needs into this story?
Thanks for saying that, Marlene! As I mentioned, at 35, I’ve just begun thinking about motherhood. I don’t think I was ready before, but now –especially now that I’ve found the absolute right person for me – it’s like everything in my brain has just shifted. And I’m scared. I’ve never tried to get pregnant before, and I have several friends who have struggled with fertility. So even before we’ve really begun to try, I’ve done a lot of thinking about the different ways to become a mother. An old friend of mine also recently adopted four children from Haiti, and I think he has an absolutely gorgeous, wonderful family. Fostering and adoption are such beautiful ways to build families, I think, and children with special needs are often the ones who have the most trouble finding homes. That’s something that matters to Andrew – Kate’s ASL instructor in the book – and it’s something that matters to me.
With the holiday season upon us, what are you most looking forward to?
I love the holidays. I’m really looking forward to taking a few days off and spending time with my family and friends. Of course my husband is right here with me, and my mom lives nearby, but I don’t get to see my other family members often enough. I’m excited about the opportunity to spend more quality time than usual with the people I love. Oh, and I’m also looking forward to even more hot chocolate! I live in Florida where it’s been in the 60s and 70s most of December, so it’s not exactly hot chocolate weather. But the holidays provide the perfect excuse! I’ve been drinking it all month like it’s my job! (Also, I’m looking forward to the release of THE LIFE INTENDED… We’re having a party at a local indie bookstore on the actual launch date, Dec. 30. Come by if you’re in the Orlando area! Writer’s Block Bookstore on Welbourne Ave. in Winter Park from 6-8 p.m.!)
If you could get any gift for the holidays, no matter how extravagant, what would it be?
If anyone has figured out how to give the gift of more hours in the day, I will take that, please! I’m telling you, the older I’ve gotten, the more quickly the days seem to fly by. There never seems to be enough time to get everything done! Barring that, I’d love an around-the-world trip…. Or at least a trip to Paris, Munich and Milan, to visit some of my dear friends! Also, some Seda France Japanese Quince candles. They’re expensive, but they’re my favorite candles to burn while writing. Oh, and world peace. I would also like world peace. Can you make that happen?
Do you make New Year’s resolutions? If so, do you know what 2015’s will be?
I generally intend to make New Year’s resolutions, and then I don’t get around to making them until February. Yeah, I procrastinate. But this year, I think I have a good one in mind. One of the messages of THE LIFE INTENDED is that we should all strive to choose happiness. We have the right – and the responsibility – to make choices to make our own lives happy. So in 2015, my biggest resolution will be to do my best to choose happiness – meaning I’ll try to make choices that come from a good, decent place and that involve following my heart.
What are you most looking forward to in the New Year?My first full year of marriage; settling into my new house (we closed on our new home the day before Thanksgiving!); trips to visit my sister and friends in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Paris and more; finishing my next novel; and hearing what people think of THE LIFE INTENDED!
Kristin, I had so much fun chatting with you. Thank you for spending time with us. I hope you have a wonderful New Year. I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us with your next book!
About the Author:
Kristin Harmel is an internationally bestselling novelist whose books have been translated into numerous languages and are sold all over the world. After spending many years as a freelance writer (with a steady reporting gig for Peoplemagazine for more than a decade) Kristin now freelances only occasionally, focusing on book tours, book club visits and, of course, writing her next books!
Kristin graduated summa cum laude from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has lived in Paris, Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Miami and now resides in Orlando, Fla., with her husband, Jason.
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Simon & Schuster is giving 1 lucky winner a print copy of
The Life Intended (US Only)