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Open Heart

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Life is fleeting. Love is a gift. In this coming of age novel set in the 1970s, Gene Hull is whitewashing the trunks of Arizona citrus trees when he spots a beautiful girl and falls instantly in love. The girl is vulnerable and shy. Though Gene breaks through her reserve, a date at a wave park turns into a near disaster, and Gene must call on the one person he can always re Life is fleeting. Love is a gift. In this coming of age novel set in the 1970s, Gene Hull is whitewashing the trunks of Arizona citrus trees when he spots a beautiful girl and falls instantly in love. The girl is vulnerable and shy. Though Gene breaks through her reserve, a date at a wave park turns into a near disaster, and Gene must call on the one person he can always rely on—his doctor father. Although the girl survives and Gene wins her over, what will happen when they leave for college? Is she truly “the one,” or will distance drive them apart? When a freak accident blows a hole in Gene’s freshman year, his grades tank, and he bobbles the ball with the love of his life. She’s gone forever. Not only that, but he’ll never get into med school on grades alone. Hoping to improve his chances of admission, he spends the summer trailing a famous heart surgeon. But can Gene, determined to live up to his father’s legacy, turn his summer in the “Heart Room”—an operating theater of chilling cold, bone saws, and macabre humor—into an experience that would make his father proud? Will he ever love again? If you like novels where family life is complicated, and parents’ expectations trickle down into their children’s lives, then you’ll love Gregory D. Williams’ roman à clef about life, love, and finding one’s own true path. Buy Open Heart today for an inside look at a team of surgeons healing broken hearts and a young man trying desperately to heal his own.


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Life is fleeting. Love is a gift. In this coming of age novel set in the 1970s, Gene Hull is whitewashing the trunks of Arizona citrus trees when he spots a beautiful girl and falls instantly in love. The girl is vulnerable and shy. Though Gene breaks through her reserve, a date at a wave park turns into a near disaster, and Gene must call on the one person he can always re Life is fleeting. Love is a gift. In this coming of age novel set in the 1970s, Gene Hull is whitewashing the trunks of Arizona citrus trees when he spots a beautiful girl and falls instantly in love. The girl is vulnerable and shy. Though Gene breaks through her reserve, a date at a wave park turns into a near disaster, and Gene must call on the one person he can always rely on—his doctor father. Although the girl survives and Gene wins her over, what will happen when they leave for college? Is she truly “the one,” or will distance drive them apart? When a freak accident blows a hole in Gene’s freshman year, his grades tank, and he bobbles the ball with the love of his life. She’s gone forever. Not only that, but he’ll never get into med school on grades alone. Hoping to improve his chances of admission, he spends the summer trailing a famous heart surgeon. But can Gene, determined to live up to his father’s legacy, turn his summer in the “Heart Room”—an operating theater of chilling cold, bone saws, and macabre humor—into an experience that would make his father proud? Will he ever love again? If you like novels where family life is complicated, and parents’ expectations trickle down into their children’s lives, then you’ll love Gregory D. Williams’ roman à clef about life, love, and finding one’s own true path. Buy Open Heart today for an inside look at a team of surgeons healing broken hearts and a young man trying desperately to heal his own.

30 review for Open Heart

  1. 4 out of 5

    Carole (Carole's Random Life in Books)

    This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books. I really liked this book! I have to admit that while I thought this book sounded interesting from the start, I was only mildly interested in it. Once I had a copy in my possession, I decided to give it a try and I ended up reading the entire book cover to cover in a single day. I was drawn into this story as soon as I started reading and it captured my attention until I turned the last page. I am so glad that I took a chance on this This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books. I really liked this book! I have to admit that while I thought this book sounded interesting from the start, I was only mildly interested in it. Once I had a copy in my possession, I decided to give it a try and I ended up reading the entire book cover to cover in a single day. I was drawn into this story as soon as I started reading and it captured my attention until I turned the last page. I am so glad that I took a chance on this book. This book falls into several genres. It is a coming of age story, a historical fiction tale since it is set in the 1970s, and a medical drama because a large portion of the book takes place in the operating room. I loved the fact that not only was this book was able to do so many things but that it did them well. I am not sure that all readers will enjoy the detailed surgery scenes in this book since they are a little graphic but I loved them. Of course, I have also been known to watch surgeries on television as a form of entertainment. Gene is a young man living in 1970s Arizona. He meets a girl at the start of the story and wants to get to know her better. When they are on their first date together, she has an emergency and Gene calls his father, who is a doctor, to come help. Patty ends up needing surgery and Gene is there for her every step of the way. When Gene is in college, he knows his grades may not be enough to get him into medical school so he spends his summer following a heart surgeon and his team at the hospital in hopes of getting a recommendation. We really watch Gene grow up in this book. There were some times in this book that I wanted to look away because I knew Gene was about to do something that was not going to work out well. I love it when a book can make a character feel so real that it is almost painful to watch their life implode. This book does deal with a lot of tough issues and Gene learns a lot of lessons in these pages. I am just glad that I was able to go on this journey with him. I would recommend this book to others. I found this to be a well-written story and I loved the medical aspect of the story. I think that Gregory D. Williams crafted a very entertaining story and I was saddened to learn that he passed away in 2020 before the publication of this book. I received an advanced review copy of this book from Grand Canyon Press.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Athena (OneReadingNurse)

    I always thought The House of God was the quintessential fiction so read for people coming into medicine, but Open Heart has it's place right alongside it I'm inordinately sad that the author passed away, the book feels like his legacy and love letter to medicine. Kind of Ironic considering that Carl's death had a huge impact on the book - I wonder if the author knew it was coming, or if he died suddenly? I want to take the text in context if he thought he was writing his legacy! Anyway - Williams I always thought The House of God was the quintessential fiction so read for people coming into medicine, but Open Heart has it's place right alongside it I'm inordinately sad that the author passed away, the book feels like his legacy and love letter to medicine. Kind of Ironic considering that Carl's death had a huge impact on the book - I wonder if the author knew it was coming, or if he died suddenly? I want to take the text in context if he thought he was writing his legacy! Anyway - Williams really touches on what it means to trust each other and lean on your family / "family" in healthcare. He even mentions death breakfast (death cheese anyone?) I feel like every hospital has a Jesse. And an Irene. And heck, there's a Dr Harrington too. I feel like there's something in the book that every medical person out there can relate to. That patient you just felt helpless about for so long, even though there's nothing you could have done for them Or that time you f*cked up and it'll haunt you just the same Have you ever lost your shit over an outcome? Like I said, this will hit medical people right in the feels There is a lot of medical talk (1970s style) about heart surgery and bypass that I am not sure laypeople would get through without skimming, but I found it fascinating. Gene's life, growing up, taking ownership of your mistakes, and learning all about love should be enough to keep anyone interested in the book. I obviously liked the OR chapters the best!! And the parts about forgiving yourself for mistakes, growing up, moving forward, coming off bypass so to speak Jesse the tray guy and Rui's bad elephant jokes were more perfect additions. Honestly the doctors and nurses each were really great characters and I liked the parallels between the OR family life and Gene's family. 100% recommend Open Heart for anyone in medicine, and anyone looking for a good coming of age story as well. Superbly written novel for anyone that likes reading about characters learning hard and real life truths.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Marylee MacDonald

    This sensitive portrayal of an earnest young man's efforts to figure out what he's going to do with his life reminded me that, growing up, we often strive to be the person we THINK our parents want us to be. Failing that, we berate ourselves for being a disappointment. Gene faces this issue every day in the Heart Room, the place his father worked as an anesthesiologist and where he has been granted permission to spend his summer. OPEN HEART is a quiet, gripping novel, with an amazing cast of com This sensitive portrayal of an earnest young man's efforts to figure out what he's going to do with his life reminded me that, growing up, we often strive to be the person we THINK our parents want us to be. Failing that, we berate ourselves for being a disappointment. Gene faces this issue every day in the Heart Room, the place his father worked as an anesthesiologist and where he has been granted permission to spend his summer. OPEN HEART is a quiet, gripping novel, with an amazing cast of complex characters, each of whom is uniquely designed to leave an impression on the young man. One of my favorites was Jesse, the hospital orderly. Another favorite was Sandra, a nurse with a hidden past and a secret that Gene only discovers near the novel's end. The book builds to a climax where Gene is clearly faced with a moral choice. Will he become capable of acting with integrity? Read the book and find out.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mallory

    This book was very interesting and a good look at what the first steps into a medical career could look like. The main character did not endear me and was difficult to read at times. I understand he was coming to age and had just lost his father, but he was truly difficult to like. I did like the blend of the medical world and the family drama of dealing with grief. His mistakes seemed to pile up and he didn’t seem to grow as much asI would have liked. I did love the patients and scenes in the o This book was very interesting and a good look at what the first steps into a medical career could look like. The main character did not endear me and was difficult to read at times. I understand he was coming to age and had just lost his father, but he was truly difficult to like. I did like the blend of the medical world and the family drama of dealing with grief. His mistakes seemed to pile up and he didn’t seem to grow as much asI would have liked. I did love the patients and scenes in the operating room. They were very interesting. I felt bad for Patty because she was a pretty likable character. I liked the beginning of their love story although the jumps in time were a little hard to follow in the beginning, but once the book settled into the summer of Gene’s internship the story flowed a lot better. I wonder if it was just the times but the fact that Gene accepted the title “Dr. Hull” without once saying anything annoyed me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Vicki

    Wow. It took me a little while to get through this book. It captured my attention enough but yet, I just had a hard time really caring at first. Once Gene and Patty broke up, I was enraptured! Gene then started working at the hospital and wow, I learned so much! I was so impressed by all the details Gregory D. Williams provided about what goes on in the Heart Room. I could really picture it. Then, I realized how incredible this whole story was! Gene's struggles with his father's death, the break Wow. It took me a little while to get through this book. It captured my attention enough but yet, I just had a hard time really caring at first. Once Gene and Patty broke up, I was enraptured! Gene then started working at the hospital and wow, I learned so much! I was so impressed by all the details Gregory D. Williams provided about what goes on in the Heart Room. I could really picture it. Then, I realized how incredible this whole story was! Gene's struggles with his father's death, the breakup with Patty and everything he goes through. He was such a great character and I really felt for him so many times. He discovers that everyone has secrets and he really grew up during that summer at home and working at the hospital. I was pretty shocked when I read the blurb on the back about the author and realized, this was based on him! He is a Doctor and he lived in Arizona and loved baseball. I then continued to devour the book. When I got to the end and read his bio, it broke my heart to read that he passed away in 2020, before this book got published. It was such a great read and it will stick with me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda

    Wonderful characters with interesting dialogue and good interaction. Complex relationships with twists and turns and plenty of drama thrown in. Grabs you from the first page. Good read. I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Keerthi

    I’m so grateful that I got to experience this wonderful world that the author has created. I could tell that this book involved an abundance of creativity and that it will be a big hit. The cover captured me and the storyline satisfied me. I love that this book is set in a storyline which enhances the book itself. The author made this book so amazing and I would totally recommend that people buy it when it gets released. I would most definitely rate this five stars for people who like books that I’m so grateful that I got to experience this wonderful world that the author has created. I could tell that this book involved an abundance of creativity and that it will be a big hit. The cover captured me and the storyline satisfied me. I love that this book is set in a storyline which enhances the book itself. The author made this book so amazing and I would totally recommend that people buy it when it gets released. I would most definitely rate this five stars for people who like books that are mysterious. I could also see a little bit of romance involved. I know that personally, I would be re-reading this book over and over. I can’t get enough. Once again, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to experience this majestic world and would totally recommend it to other bookworms like myself! The front cover was amazing and colorful and really drew me towards this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    April

    Thank you to Grand Canyon Press and Gregory D. Williams for a copy of Open Heart via Bookish First. Open Heart reminded me of the many times we want to be what our parents want us to be and the struggle that comes with that burden throughout life. I loved the main character, Gene. His moral dilemmas, his romantic thoughts - everything made for such a well rounded character. I enjoyed the time jumps in the chapters and liked that each chapter was specific to that time (instead of jumping througho Thank you to Grand Canyon Press and Gregory D. Williams for a copy of Open Heart via Bookish First. Open Heart reminded me of the many times we want to be what our parents want us to be and the struggle that comes with that burden throughout life. I loved the main character, Gene. His moral dilemmas, his romantic thoughts - everything made for such a well rounded character. I enjoyed the time jumps in the chapters and liked that each chapter was specific to that time (instead of jumping throughout the chapter which confuses me sometimes). I also liked the medical setting and other characters - especially Sandra. I won't give away any spoilers but I was surprised with her character arc. Open Heart was an amazing glimpse into the medical field and the world of cardiac surgery. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys medical novels, strong characters and personal/moral struggles. It's just like Gene says in a letter he writes - he cares too much to be a doctor.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Olivia Fink

    3.5* stars Thank you to the publisher Marylee MacDonald and Grand Canyon Press and Bookishfirst for a copy in exchange for an honest review. Gene, his father was an anesthesiologist always doing his best to save the lives of people in need. But on a family trip they drive by an ancient but even though Gene’s father tries his best he can’t save that little girl. That memory has always stuck in Gene’s mind and his fathers too. Now Gene with his father gone is in the shadow of his amazing father. W 3.5* stars Thank you to the publisher Marylee MacDonald and Grand Canyon Press and Bookishfirst for a copy in exchange for an honest review. Gene, his father was an anesthesiologist always doing his best to save the lives of people in need. But on a family trip they drive by an ancient but even though Gene’s father tries his best he can’t save that little girl. That memory has always stuck in Gene’s mind and his fathers too. Now Gene with his father gone is in the shadow of his amazing father. When he spends his summer trailing a famous heart surgeon everyone in the hospital remembers his father and its big shoes to follow in. This novel explores Gene and his summer as he tried to get over the love of his life and as he untangles the multitude of lies his family has told him over the years. I like how this story is set up. It starts off right away with that fatal ancient. This gets the readers heart attached to Gene as they feel the pain he feels and the sorrow he feels with all the people he loses in his life. In the beginning of the story it switches between different timelines giving the reader some needed background information but then it eventually stays in the year the story is taking place. This story is considered historical but it’s not really, the only way it is considered this is because it takes place in the 70s but that’s as far as it goes. I really enjoyed this book. At first when reading the plot, I thought this book would be cheesy and just like every other book about a guy falling in love at first sight, but as the book went on you could see why they fell in love and could feel the chemistry to the very end. The writing style flows easy, so it is easy to understand and still very engaging to readers. This story is in no way face paced. It is pretty slow. I still liked it because it was more of a slow pleasant read you don’t have to think hard about. The story is very detailed and is very well written, but it’s just not an action-packed thriller. And it doesn’t really have much of a conflict. There are of course some small things but the book itself doesn’t have a main plot. The story mainly just goes with the fly randomly throwing different side stories in, but those small side stories are still entertaining. And the ending wasn’t much of an ending because there was nothing really to resolve except maybe with his love life. I did really enjoy reading the experiences inside the heart room and hospital. This was my favorite part. I loved hearing about the patients and how they develop a relationship with their patients. It was very realistic in how the medical staff interacts and the medical jargon really added so much to the book. I was so sad to hear about the author, but it’s wonderful that his work gets to live on and we get to read it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Fink

    3.5 stars* There is so much to dissect from this book, so to make this review as comprehensible as possible, I’m going to break the aspects of this book into sections. Writing: The author’s style is hard to describe. In fact, there isn’t really anything to say specifically. The writing is insignificant but in the best way possible. While reading I didn’t notice how things were described, word choice, or how fast things were. I wasn’t distracted by these little details; I was able to just read. It 3.5 stars* There is so much to dissect from this book, so to make this review as comprehensible as possible, I’m going to break the aspects of this book into sections. Writing: The author’s style is hard to describe. In fact, there isn’t really anything to say specifically. The writing is insignificant but in the best way possible. While reading I didn’t notice how things were described, word choice, or how fast things were. I wasn’t distracted by these little details; I was able to just read. It was so smooth to the point that it isn’t noticeable. It was a truly amazing thing. Pace: It was a slow start and took me awhile to get involved. It was probably about halfway through that I actually started to enjoy the read. The pace of the story was slow throughout, but it was at that halfway mark that I actually started to get involved. Development: The benefit of the slow pace of the story is that there was excellent development. We were taken for a drive through the youth of the main character, and even though this took time, it helped to build a complex life that we understood. We got to see our main character grow from a weak point in his life, to a time when he is confident in who he is. The maturing of the main character was satisfying to see and made me content in the end. Characters: As mentioned above, character development was done really well. The characters had complex lives and personalities. We could relate to them and connect with them. I became attached to even side characters such as the patients and hospital employees. It made the story come alive. The character relationships were complex and believable. Story: The actual story was compelling. We got to walk with our main character through learning the operations of the heart room. Seeing into the OR was unique and interesting. We not only saw our main character’s life in the OR but also out of it. The subplots were the walls to the foundation. The revelations, twists and resolutions were pleasing to read. A big thanks to the publisher for giving me this charming read!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stacy40pages

    Open Heart by Gregory D. Williams. Thanks to @bookishfirst and @grandcanyonpress for the Arc ⭐️⭐️⭐️ After Gene’s father’s tragic death, he follows in his footsteps by helping in the Heart Room, the open heart operating room. While dealing with his coworkers and cases, he is also trying to get over his first relationship that ended. I absolutely love anything categorized as coming of age, but I’ve found that’s not really true... I like coming of age when the aging is more in the adolescence. This Open Heart by Gregory D. Williams. Thanks to @bookishfirst and @grandcanyonpress for the Arc ⭐️⭐️⭐️ After Gene’s father’s tragic death, he follows in his footsteps by helping in the Heart Room, the open heart operating room. While dealing with his coworkers and cases, he is also trying to get over his first relationship that ended. I absolutely love anything categorized as coming of age, but I’ve found that’s not really true... I like coming of age when the aging is more in the adolescence. This book, similar to another I read recently, had the main characters development taking place at the college level.. and the growing and learning is a bit more nuanced than those teenage coming of ages. Anyone interested in medicine and surgery would enjoy this. I did like the operating room scenes, especially the macabre humor and silly jokes during surgery. However, there’s only so many times I can read about a catheter being inserted.. super cringey for me! I loved the beginning of the story and getting to know his relationship but towards the end it drug for me and felt obsessive. The main character was not winning any points with me, especially after his attempt to kill a cat (he did change his mind, so we have that). Speaking of animals, I was on the edge of my seat the whole book because really... how many times can the family pet get injured?! Overall the best part of the book for me was the operating room scenes (sans catheter insertion) and the beginning of his relationship with Patty. I also liked that it took place in the 1970’s. “Simple moments accumulate, one by one with a person, and through them, if we are lucky, we are enriched.” Open Heart comes out 1/14.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rosie

    This novel set in 1970's Arizona follows a young college grad, Gene, as he navigates his first major heartbreak and figures out the kind of man he wants to be, all while grappling with his late father's legacy and perceived expectations. Gene's summer working in the heart room at his father's hospital is interspersed with flashbacks that tell the story of Gene's first love and his relationship with his father, a well-loved anesthesiologist. The first half of the novel was slower for me, but by This novel set in 1970's Arizona follows a young college grad, Gene, as he navigates his first major heartbreak and figures out the kind of man he wants to be, all while grappling with his late father's legacy and perceived expectations. Gene's summer working in the heart room at his father's hospital is interspersed with flashbacks that tell the story of Gene's first love and his relationship with his father, a well-loved anesthesiologist. The first half of the novel was slower for me, but by the second half I started to connect more with the characters and found it very engaging and compulsively readable. The characters were flawed but endearing, and felt very authentic. Their decisions were sometimes frustrating, especially Gene's, but this felt true to life and allowed them to grow (again, especially Gene) throughout the story. The medical scenes in the heart room include well-written technical details while still generating tension and conveying the high stakes of the open heart surgeries occurring. Gene's discovery of who his parents truly are/were in relation to his own perceptions of them growing up was especially poignant, and I also enjoyed his relationships with the various members of the heart team. This novel felt very personal and I was sad to see that the author passed away in 2020. The author's voice and insight into human nature, especially the emotional journeys of navigating first love/heartbreak and growing into a person separate from your parents' legacy, shone through. This book is a lovely testimony to life, and the wonder that is a human heart, with all its messiness and joy.

  13. 4 out of 5

    K.T.

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. *I received a copy from Bookish First in exchange for an honest review* Open Heart is a multi-genre story that stays with the reader long after finishing the book. I was not exactly sure what to expect going into the story, and it is not in my usual reading genres, however, I found a thoughtful, emotional, and gripping tale. The reader watches Gene grow up, make difficult decisions, and push through uncomfortable situations. It is an excellent coming-of-age story, and fits within the genres of His *I received a copy from Bookish First in exchange for an honest review* Open Heart is a multi-genre story that stays with the reader long after finishing the book. I was not exactly sure what to expect going into the story, and it is not in my usual reading genres, however, I found a thoughtful, emotional, and gripping tale. The reader watches Gene grow up, make difficult decisions, and push through uncomfortable situations. It is an excellent coming-of-age story, and fits within the genres of Historical Fiction, Coming-of-Age, and Medical Drama. Personally, I skimmed the more detailed medical parts; while they certainly added depth, authenticity, and color to the story, I was just not very interested. I would certainly recommend this book, however! On a more somber note, I was sad to hear that the author had passed away last year in 2020, and the richness of his writing in "Open Heart" makes me wonder if he knew or suspected it might be his last book and love letter to the medical world. May he rest in peace.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Denise Moore

    Thank you to BookishFirst, the publishing company, and the author Gregory D. Williams for this advanced readers copy. I fell in love with the story of Gene as he navigates life, love and family expectations with the medical world as the backdrop. Gene is dealing with the death of his father and struggles with family expectations of what he should do. This story pulls at the readers heart strings, as such a moral issue can do. Gene is a likable character. As a medical professional myself, I loves Thank you to BookishFirst, the publishing company, and the author Gregory D. Williams for this advanced readers copy. I fell in love with the story of Gene as he navigates life, love and family expectations with the medical world as the backdrop. Gene is dealing with the death of his father and struggles with family expectations of what he should do. This story pulls at the readers heart strings, as such a moral issue can do. Gene is a likable character. As a medical professional myself, I loves the medical drama in this book. The author was a medical professional himself and that clearly comes through with the accuracy of the medical component in this book. I was saddened to learn of the authors recent death. This is an amazing read that covers issues most readers face in real life- love, grief, expectations. I highly recommend this brilliant book to any reader.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jena Massey

    Open Heart is a very well written medical fiction book. I'm truly honored to have read this one. This author passed away in 2020 and to think he is no longer here to write great novels to share with us makes me sad, but I'm also very thankful to have had the chance to read and review this one. The stories told in this book are told in such a way to not be forgotten. Gene is a great character who after his father passes away, receives an internship at the hospital that his father worked at. He wo Open Heart is a very well written medical fiction book. I'm truly honored to have read this one. This author passed away in 2020 and to think he is no longer here to write great novels to share with us makes me sad, but I'm also very thankful to have had the chance to read and review this one. The stories told in this book are told in such a way to not be forgotten. Gene is a great character who after his father passes away, receives an internship at the hospital that his father worked at. He works there over the summer and while there learns many things. He also uncovers a few family secrets. The love story of Gene and Patty is sweet and I will admit I would have loved to get more information on them and how their story plays out in the ending of this book. I also loved the relationships that Gene developed with the patients that he helped to take care of.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Taking the journey through Gene's life is uplifting at times, but also has its shares of heart break and devastation. His story begins, as so many of our stories do, with matters of the heart. Gene is young and in love and learning to navigate both his new found love life and his life in general. The author takes you back and forth from past to present as you learn about the story of Gene and how he's found himself not just thinking about his heart but studying matters of the heart as a heart su Taking the journey through Gene's life is uplifting at times, but also has its shares of heart break and devastation. His story begins, as so many of our stories do, with matters of the heart. Gene is young and in love and learning to navigate both his new found love life and his life in general. The author takes you back and forth from past to present as you learn about the story of Gene and how he's found himself not just thinking about his heart but studying matters of the heart as a heart surgeon "intern". Williams is clearly educated in the medical field as there is a lot of medical terms used (I found myself reaching for the dictionary several times) to describe many aspects of Gene's career discovery. Although it seems as if this will become any typical love story I appreciated the author's commitment to authenticity and acknowledging that some stories do leave us open, vulnerable, and broken hearted.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    The book’s opening scenes are set in the early 1960’s and immediately involved the reader in drama when Gene’s family comes upon a tragic accident. The story picks up again in 1974, as Gene is embarking on a career in medicine, beginning with a college stint in the ‘Heart Room.’ As the story progresses, the title of the book hints that there is definitely a double meaning to the words “Open Heart.” This book explores a young man’s quest to understand the human condition and the profound ways he The book’s opening scenes are set in the early 1960’s and immediately involved the reader in drama when Gene’s family comes upon a tragic accident. The story picks up again in 1974, as Gene is embarking on a career in medicine, beginning with a college stint in the ‘Heart Room.’ As the story progresses, the title of the book hints that there is definitely a double meaning to the words “Open Heart.” This book explores a young man’s quest to understand the human condition and the profound ways he grows as he journeys life’s path.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Ann

    A beautiful debut novel that brings to life a cardiac hospital in the mid-1970’s where Gene, a young college student, interns with his late father’s surgical team. The operating scenes are vivid and suspenseful, and the characters in the Heart Room come alive with biting, funny dialog which underlies the Team’s camaraderie and mutual respect. Because it is set in the early days of cardiac bypass surgery, the outcomes are never assured, and Gene has to learn quickly how to adapt and learn. The ana A beautiful debut novel that brings to life a cardiac hospital in the mid-1970’s where Gene, a young college student, interns with his late father’s surgical team. The operating scenes are vivid and suspenseful, and the characters in the Heart Room come alive with biting, funny dialog which underlies the Team’s camaraderie and mutual respect. Because it is set in the early days of cardiac bypass surgery, the outcomes are never assured, and Gene has to learn quickly how to adapt and learn. The anatomy of the heart becomes a metaphor for the relationships in Gene’s life. But OPEN HEART is mostly the story of the transcendent power of love and how it shapes us to become better people. Gene is driven by love: for his late father, his high school girl friend Patty and his dog Apollo. The plot layers the stories of these people, and family secrets and misunderstandings are revealed. OPEN HEART is a fast, fun read, and really brings 1974 to life!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Williams uses his unique experiences to guide his audience through a vivid and poignant examination of the problems we all face: struggles with loss, love, and the search for a true calling. His powerful story is both very personal and highly universal, and it offers a thoroughly engaging narrative with lessons to offer every reader.

  20. 4 out of 5

    George Ryback

    A review of Greg Williams' novel "Open Heart" by George Ryback, M.D. Greg's rich detail paints a wonderful picture of a brief period in a young man's life using the heart as a metaphor mixed with the realities of a real "open heart" team's experiences. Against the backdrop of Phoenix in the 1970's Greg captures the intensity of loves won and lost, of a father's legacy carried in a son's heart and the gravity of repairing hearts broken by illness or disease. In the latter Greg reveals his knowled A review of Greg Williams' novel "Open Heart" by George Ryback, M.D. Greg's rich detail paints a wonderful picture of a brief period in a young man's life using the heart as a metaphor mixed with the realities of a real "open heart" team's experiences. Against the backdrop of Phoenix in the 1970's Greg captures the intensity of loves won and lost, of a father's legacy carried in a son's heart and the gravity of repairing hearts broken by illness or disease. In the latter Greg reveals his knowledge and experience as an anesthesiologist conveying the seemingly lite-heartedness of the OR team and the seriousness with which it engages its task. Wonderfully written and engaging, Greg's novel will touch your heart too. "Open Heart", is a tribute to the man: a father, a husband, a friend and a colleague. George Ryback, M.D.

  21. 4 out of 5

    James Flori

    I loved this story! I mostly read non-fiction, but when I do read fiction I like to learn something along the way. In addition to being an engaging romance, reading "Open Heart" gave me a fascinating glimpse of what it's like to work in the OR of a hospital - how these very skilled and sometimes egotistical people interact under the pressure of a job which is simultaneously routine and a matter of life-or-death. Also, anyone who grew up in Arizona during the seventies, as I did, will appreciate I loved this story! I mostly read non-fiction, but when I do read fiction I like to learn something along the way. In addition to being an engaging romance, reading "Open Heart" gave me a fascinating glimpse of what it's like to work in the OR of a hospital - how these very skilled and sometimes egotistical people interact under the pressure of a job which is simultaneously routine and a matter of life-or-death. Also, anyone who grew up in Arizona during the seventies, as I did, will appreciate the many details that add color and give the story's setting the ring of authenticity. I highly recommend this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Katrina

    4.5 stars

  23. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Spence

    This bitter-sweet story of first love holds an edge, as finely sharpened as a scalpel. That’s no coincidence, because Gene Hull, the young protagonist, shadows his father’s medical colleagues in “the Heart Room,” as he considers whether he too, wants to be a doctor. When his college girlfriend has a crisis, Gene, immersed in exams, obsessed with his own future, cannot take a few days off to help her. The cost of ambition and the moral choice involved is nicely explored in this story, set a genera This bitter-sweet story of first love holds an edge, as finely sharpened as a scalpel. That’s no coincidence, because Gene Hull, the young protagonist, shadows his father’s medical colleagues in “the Heart Room,” as he considers whether he too, wants to be a doctor. When his college girlfriend has a crisis, Gene, immersed in exams, obsessed with his own future, cannot take a few days off to help her. The cost of ambition and the moral choice involved is nicely explored in this story, set a generation ago. Riveting scenes of the life of a medical student. Thanks to Grand Canyon Press for an advance reader copy of this fine book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Open Heart: A poignant and gripping historical novel about the enduring power of love by Gregory D. Williams is one of the best coming-of-age stories I have read. Williams nails the atmosphere of the early 1970s. The book moves between 1971 and 1974. Set in Phoenix, Gene McClellan is a senior in high school who has a summer job painting fruit trees white to keep the heat from the sun off of them. On the job, he meets Patty who has moved into the neighborhood and he falls in love. She has a medic Open Heart: A poignant and gripping historical novel about the enduring power of love by Gregory D. Williams is one of the best coming-of-age stories I have read. Williams nails the atmosphere of the early 1970s. The book moves between 1971 and 1974. Set in Phoenix, Gene McClellan is a senior in high school who has a summer job painting fruit trees white to keep the heat from the sun off of them. On the job, he meets Patty who has moved into the neighborhood and he falls in love. She has a medical problem on their first date, and he immediately calls his father who is a doctor. Gene’s quick actions saves Patti’s life. In 1974, we find his father had died in an accident and he is hoping to get a summer job shadowing a heart surgeon at the hospital where his father worked. I loved the quirky characters at the hospital (especially Jessie). The author is gifted in writing about Gene’s feelings about Patty and moving back and forth between the two time periods. My nose was in this book from the moment I started this book until I finished. I laughed. I cried. I found myself having conversations with the author. When I did finish the book, I looked up the author and discovered that he was a doctor, but unfortunately he passed away in 2020. I want to thank Grand Canyon Press and NetGalley for an ARC of this book. The opinions in this review are my own.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

    Rating: 3 stars (The following book contains suggestive material, language, depictions of open heart surgery, and (view spoiler)[mentions of a miscarriage (hide spoiler)] ) I don't really know how to describe this book. On the one hand, it wasn't so good that I'm going to wax poetic about the brilliant prose and narrative. On the other hand, it wasn't so terrible I'm ready to rip it to shreds. It isn't even a Goldilocks kind of mediocre where I feel like I can list off some pros and cons and then t Rating: 3 stars (The following book contains suggestive material, language, depictions of open heart surgery, and (view spoiler)[mentions of a miscarriage (hide spoiler)] ) I don't really know how to describe this book. On the one hand, it wasn't so good that I'm going to wax poetic about the brilliant prose and narrative. On the other hand, it wasn't so terrible I'm ready to rip it to shreds. It isn't even a Goldilocks kind of mediocre where I feel like I can list off some pros and cons and then talk about how it was a good effort but that it's ultimately going to be forgettable. This book is just...confusing. I wasn't particularly attached to any of the characters or engrossed in the story, but every time I felt like I could put the book down, I had a compulsion to keep reading until I got to the end--and it wasn't a "I need to get this over with" or "I need to find out what happens" kind. There was something compelling about Open Heart but I can't figure out what it is. The book opens jumping back and forth between the past and present in alternating chapters. I don't think it was strictly necessary and, honestly, kind of threw me off a bit. It's a coming of age story and has a bit of a historical fiction vibe (it's set in the 70s.) Gene is a young man dealing with loss and regret but never managed to evoke much empathy from me. It seems like Williams took the advice to "write what you know" pretty seriously because both he and Gene love baseball, whitewashed citrus trees in the summer, and were sons of anesthesiologists, so I feel bad for saying this about a what is probably a deeply personal book and now touted as his legacy, but I never really connected with this book. That being said, I spent my day off reading the whole thing in one sitting, so there was obviously something compelling about it. Maybe it was the (very minor) Everything I Never Told You vibes? The found (dysfunctional) family? But the medical aspect is probably what hooked me. I don't know if I would go so far to call this a medical drama, but it's certainly medical fiction that is very true to life. Williams was a retired anesthesiologist who writes about the medical field with precision and clarity that can be appreciated by health care and lay readers alike. The one flaw I can actually identify is a pretty quick fix: there were some major misses in terms of copy editing. This is a sizable book, but if you like realistic medical stories or if you don't have weird compulsions about not finishing books, this is worth checking out.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Teresa Vu

    Rating - 4.7/5 I have to admit, this took me a little longer than usual to read! It's actually a pretty lengthy book. The book starts off with Gene's first heartbreak, and how he copes with his feelings. It then goes back and forth between the time before his summer internship in the "Heart Room" and his time spent in the "Heart Room" (for those who haven't read the book yet, the "Heart Room" is the area where he assists a heart surgeon and his staff). To be honest, I am not fond of historical f Rating - 4.7/5 I have to admit, this took me a little longer than usual to read! It's actually a pretty lengthy book. The book starts off with Gene's first heartbreak, and how he copes with his feelings. It then goes back and forth between the time before his summer internship in the "Heart Room" and his time spent in the "Heart Room" (for those who haven't read the book yet, the "Heart Room" is the area where he assists a heart surgeon and his staff). To be honest, I am not fond of historical fiction novels; it's not a genre that I normally gravitate towards. Sometimes I find it hard to gain interest or motivation to read the book. Also, I felt like Gene had a slow character development in the beginning; it was a little more focused on his feelings of being in love and heartbreak, and for that, I found it difficult to empathize with the character. However, things did pick up midway through the book; it IS a book that you definitely have to be patient with. The first half of the book may seem like there's no plot or excitement, but it did pick up in the last half (I don't want to give any spoilers). The ending was unpredictable and did catch me by surprise. I definitely recommend reading this book if you're a healthcare worker. It is a slow-paced, long novel, but at the end, it reminded me of what inspired me to work in my field. For any healthcare worker, we have all encountered a situation or a person that affected our lives deeply enough to be passionate in the field that we work in. This book also reminds me that in healthcare, nothing is ever perfect, mistakes can be made, unexpected issues can arise, and it's important to work as a team. **I want to thank Grand Canyon Press for an advanced review copy of this book.** **This book was sent to me in exchange for a honest review.**

  27. 5 out of 5

    An

    Spread over decades, Open Heart follows Gene Hull in his journey to discover himself and find love in the process. It's clear that Gregory D. Williams writes from experience; the author's detailed knowledge of the medical field shines through in his writing: "Dr. Harrington punches a hole in the aorta with something like an awl. Blood spurts from the hole. Gene flinches. Dr. Pereira cups his hand over the pulsing jet. In an instant, Dr. Harrington inserts a cannula (smaller than the ones in the v Spread over decades, Open Heart follows Gene Hull in his journey to discover himself and find love in the process. It's clear that Gregory D. Williams writes from experience; the author's detailed knowledge of the medical field shines through in his writing: "Dr. Harrington punches a hole in the aorta with something like an awl. Blood spurts from the hole. Gene flinches. Dr. Pereira cups his hand over the pulsing jet. In an instant, Dr. Harrington inserts a cannula (smaller than the ones in the vena cavas) into the hole..." At the same time, while medicine and heart surgery are a strong running theme in the novel, the writing is not bogged down by overly technical jargon. Instead, Williams blends his knowledge of science with eerily beautiful imagery of the operating theater: "This is like nothing he's ever seen. Deep within the rib's cage, naked and shimmering under the harsh light, the heart rocks with each beat. The rhythmic motion lends it a sentient quality. A kind of being itself, awake and unfazed by the anesthetic which has rendered the larger being unconscious. The surgeons have prepared this smaller, more resilient soul for bypass, but with the cannulas strapped to its limbs, each contraction looks like a struggle, as if the heart is trying to escape its bonds..." The narrative is beautifully crafted and paints a visceral and incredibly compelling story about family, love, integrity, and belonging. Many thanks to Grand Canyon Press for providing me an advance reading copy of the novel. Open Heart will be available in bookstores on January 14, 2021.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Richard Ruskin

    I must admit that my review of this beautifully written novel is a bit biased: I was a close friend of the late author from med school days, through residency and as we practiced anesthesia together for many years. Open Heart takes place largely in the setting of a cardiovascular practice and in the operating room environment of a large, busy hospital in central Phoenix. The portions of the story dealing with cardiovascular patients, the technical aspects of the surgery, the true-to-life personal I must admit that my review of this beautifully written novel is a bit biased: I was a close friend of the late author from med school days, through residency and as we practiced anesthesia together for many years. Open Heart takes place largely in the setting of a cardiovascular practice and in the operating room environment of a large, busy hospital in central Phoenix. The portions of the story dealing with cardiovascular patients, the technical aspects of the surgery, the true-to-life personalities of the surgical staff, the details of hospital life...are all quite accurately portrayed in a way that both the medical and non-medical reader can appreciate and understand. Having grown up in the Phoenix area, I was a contemporary of the main character, Gene. The descriptions of his life in the 1970s ‘Valley of the Sun’, the places that we kids frequented and the popular music of the time were a welcome remembrance. But it was then that I struggled, like Gene, to set life goals, find meaningful intimacy and live up to everyone’s expectations. Those memories are not entirely pleasant, but worth reflecting upon. Although this work is fictional, it reveals the real fabric of the author’s character, his experiences and what it means to devote one’s purpose to healthcare, committed to caring for others. It bears particular relevance in the context of the current public health crisis.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jenessa

    This book began slow, for me. Although I love historical fiction, this era is not one that I know much about or care to read about. When the opportunity came to read this book, however, I did jump at the chance. This book focused on Gene, a (near) college graduate, caught between being a boy and a man. He takes a summer internship at a hospital, being an "assistant" on the hospital's "Heart Team", performing open heart surgeries. Part of the book focuses on that, part focuses on the relationship This book began slow, for me. Although I love historical fiction, this era is not one that I know much about or care to read about. When the opportunity came to read this book, however, I did jump at the chance. This book focused on Gene, a (near) college graduate, caught between being a boy and a man. He takes a summer internship at a hospital, being an "assistant" on the hospital's "Heart Team", performing open heart surgeries. Part of the book focuses on that, part focuses on the relationship Gene had with his (now) deceased father, and part focuses on his relationship with his high school girlfriend, Patty. The book began with a series of flashbacks, and I found it to be a little confusing, overall. It was disorienting, especially when you were first meeting and getting to know these characters. The book was slow, and covered a lot of topics, but it all did come together in the end. Generally, I liked this book, but thought it covered TOO much (too many relationships and too many "problems") I especially liked the female characters, and thought that they were more dimensional than the "flat" male characters of Gene, his father and the other medical personnel that Gene worked with. In the end, I am glad that I read it. I give this books 3.5/5 stars, rounded up to 4.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Katie Hargrave

    I did get this book for free from Bookish first. I will admit if you want to try it I did have a problem. It came in around November. Only problem was I got the box and not the book. Nothing on the publisher but I honestly think it was one of those things during the holiday where someone stole it because the box was ripped open. I'm talking about this because both Bookish first and the publishers were really nice, and understanding. They were easy to reach and I had no problem and the book was t I did get this book for free from Bookish first. I will admit if you want to try it I did have a problem. It came in around November. Only problem was I got the box and not the book. Nothing on the publisher but I honestly think it was one of those things during the holiday where someone stole it because the box was ripped open. I'm talking about this because both Bookish first and the publishers were really nice, and understanding. They were easy to reach and I had no problem and the book was truly amazing. I could not put this book down. When I did it's all I could think about. It is a relatable coming of age book. I could really relate to Gene in this struggle to be seen and feel like an adult while also trying to become someone so perfect he was bound to fail. Despite this book being written though Gene's paint of view you see everyone else struggle, lies, and truths. I felt like I knew someone who reminded me of the characters. They had there good moments where you loved them and moments where you like to smack them, including Gene. They were all flowed but still got though the days as best as they could. There was also depth to the other patients that Gene tried to help. In the almost 400 pages Gene is seen fighting what I think a lot of people go though when it comes to growing up and seeing that not everything the sines is made of gold. It is a beautiful story that is a must ready for everyone. I will be keeping this to reread for years.

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