5 stars — Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers’ Favorite
Willis Hancocks is not the type of person who can serenely embrace a mediocre lifestyle and his town seems too small for him. With big dreams and strung up with a firm determination to succeed, he joins the army at the outset of WWII, but the reality of war is fraught with cruelty and the ambitious young man has to find ways of pulling himself together before he falls apart with the world around him. A Crowded Heart is a symbolic title for an engaging story of a man with a lot of pain, love, and dreams, all cradled in his heart, and what it takes to dream big and to achieve those dreams. The question is: is Willis Hancock sculpted for the kind of success he dreams of?
Andrea McKenzie Raine has a rare gift for prose and plot, and she starts her story in the midst of action and an engaging dialogue between the protagonist and a nurse in a hospital. The characters are well developed and convincing enough – many readers will find Hancocks to be very interesting as he moves from one hardship to another, trying to give perspective to his life. A Crowded Heart can be read as a well-crafted philosophy of self-actualization, the tale of a man who dreams and dares to follow his dreams, but it’s the price he has to pay that will make some readers’ hearts weep.
Sprinkled throughout the text are streams of consciousness that will allow readers to connect with the protagonist and a war commentary that is interesting. The action is intense and it is fascinating to watch the protagonist as he develops meaningful friendships, falls in love, and gets to the point of almost losing it all. I enjoyed the ride. I love the philosophy behind the book and the prose is crisp and tight. This is a well-crafted story that will instruct, entertain, and remind readers of how far a dream can drive a man.