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About The Book

Thirty-six-year-old Grace McAllister never longed for children. But when she meets Victor Hansen, a handsome, charismatic divorced restaurateur who is father to Max and Ava, Grace decides that, for the right man, she could learn to be an excellent part-time stepmom. After all, the kids live with their mother, Kelli. How hard could it be?

At thirteen, Ava Hansen is mature beyond her years. Since her parents’ divorce, she has been taking care of her emotionally unstable mother and her little brother—she pays the bills, does the laundry, and never complains because she loves her mama more than anyone. And while her father’s new girlfriend is nice enough, Ava still holds out hope that her parents will get back together and that they’ll be a family again. But only days after Victor and Grace get engaged, Kelli dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances—and soon, Grace and Ava discover that there was much more to Kelli’s life than either ever knew.

Narrated by Grace and Ava in the present with flashbacks into Kelli’s troubled past, Heart Like Mine is a poignant, hopeful portrait of womanhood, love, and the challenges and joys of family life.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Heart Like Mine includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. Consider the two epigraphs that Hatvany opens the novel with. How do they frame the novel? How do you interpret the title, Heart Like Mine, in relation to these two quotations?
2. On the surface, Kelli and Grace are very different characters. What do they share? How do their upbringings shape the kind of women they become?
3. Heart Like Mine is narrated by the three women in Victor’s life—but we never hear from him directly. As a group, discuss your impressions of Victor. How does each narrator present a different side of him?
4. While family dynamics are at the heart of this novel, friendships are also integral to these characters’ lives. Discuss the role of female friendship. What do Kelli, Grace, and Ava each get from a friend that they can’t get from a significant other or a family member? How do you experience this in your own life?
5. How are mothers and fathers portrayed differently in the novel? What do you think the author is saying about the significance of each parental figure in a child’s life?
6. Shortly after Kelli dies, Grace admits, “However much I loved Victor and worried for Max and Ava, I wasn’t sure I could go through this without losing myself completely.” Could you empathize with her in this moment? Did you agree with her when she later concluded, “It didn’t matter whether I felt ready or not”?
7. Discuss the ways that Max expresses his grief over losing his mom. How do they differ from the ways that Ava shows her sadness? What methods does each child use to try to cope with Kelli’s death?
8. A pivotal moment in the novel occurs on page 87, when Victor asks Grace to leave the room before he tells Max and Ava that their mother died. Did you think this was the right thing for him to do for his children? Why or why not?
9. Consider Grace’s coworker’s comment about how having children changes you: “But you really don’t know what love is until you’re a mother. You can’t understand it until you’ve had a baby yourself, but it’s the most intense feeling in the world” (page 109). Do you agree with this? Do you think Grace comes to share this belief?
10. On page 67, Ava thinks, “I also thought it was weird that Mama was always telling me how pretty I was, but then practically in the next breath, she insisted being smart was more important.” Based on what you learned about Kelli’s past over the course of the novel, how can you explain this apparent contradiction?
11. How does Ava’s relationship with her father change after Kelli’s death? What did you think about her comment on page 295 that, “I didn’t want him to think I was like Mama. I wanted him to believe I was stronger than that”?
12. Ava recalls her parents fighting about how much Victor was working at the restaurant. Did you side with either Kelli or Victor while you were reading these scenes?
13. Do you believe that maternal instincts are innate, or do you think that they are acquired? What do you think the novel is saying about the ways that mothering is either a learned skill or a natural ability?

Enhance Your Book Club

  1. Amy Hatvany is the author of three other novels: Best Kept Secret, Outside the Lines, and The Language of Sisters. Consider reading one of these titles as a group, and then compare and contrast the ways that Hatvany represents family in each book.   
2. Choose one of the novel’s narrators, and pick a scene that you think captures their unique perspective. Now, attempt to rewrite the scene—this time, from a different character’s point of view.   
3. Some of Ava’s favorite memories of Kelli involve cooking, and preparing a favorite recipe is one of the ways that Ava and Grace begin to bond. For your next meeting, have every member bring in a recipe that has significance to them and tell the story behind it. You might even make copies of each recipe so that every member leaves with a collection of new recipes to try.

About The Author

Photograph by Allison Zenner

Amy Hatvany is the author of nine novels, including It Happens All the Time, Somewhere Out There, and A Casual Encounter. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her family.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Washington Square Press (March 19, 2013)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451640571

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Raves and Reviews

"Beautiful and deeply moving, Amy Hatvany writes about the tangled web of family in a way that makes you laugh, cry, cheer and ache. This book has so much heart."

– Sarah Jio, New York Times bestselling author of Blackberry Winter

"A heartfelt, moving story about the lasting effects of grief amidst family bonds and breakups, and the healing powers of love, honesty, and acceptance. Hatvany writes with such wise compassion for every one of her characters."

– Seré Prince Halverson, author of The Underside of Joy

"Heart Like Mine fearlessly explores men and women desperate to measure up to the rigors of parenthood, but still failing their children. Hatvany bring sympathy and compassion to the page, while never losing sight of the damage children suffer when their parents make bad decisions."

– Randy Susan Meyers, bestselling author of The Murderer's Daughters

“A palpable love story, emotional search for and acceptance of a lost parent, and a bittersweet ending make for an enveloping, heartfelt read.”

– Publishers Weekly

“There are no storybook perfect endings here, but this compelling novel raises the possibility of a hopeful way forward.”

– The Seattle Times

“Will delight readers…vivid and written with a depth of feeling.”

– Library Journal

“Like a gorgeous dark jewel, Hatvany’s novel explores the tragedy of a mind gone awry, a tangled bond of father and daughter, and the way hope and love sustain us. It does what the best fiction does: it makes us see and experience the world differently.”

– Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You

“I’m telling everyone about Best Kept Secret. It’s the realistic and ultimately hopeful story of Cadence, whose glass of wine at the end of the day becomes two…then…three…then a bottle. I love that Cadence feels so familiar, she could be my neighbor, my friend, or even my sister.”

– Jennifer Weiner, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“I was transfixed by Cadence and her heart-wrenching dilemma. The writing is visceral, the problems are real, and there are no clear solutions. You won’t want to put it down.”

– Emily Giffin, New York Times bestselling author of Where We Belong

"By turns gripping and revelatory, Heart Like Mine is a sympathetic exploration of blended family dynamics. In her affecting new novel, Amy Hatvany pulls no punches; her characters grapple with life's big moments—marriage, parenthood, death—but she renders each of them with compassion and understanding. Heart Like Mine tells an honest, hopeful story that resonates in all the best ways."

– Jillian Medoff, bestselling auhtor of I Couldn't Love You More

“The voices are so down-to-earth and familiar and the events so much like real life that readers will feel like they know the characters…An uplifting and heartwarming experience.”

– Kirkus Reviews

“The novel explores myriad themes sure to appeal to fans of women’s fiction: love and loss, parenthood, grief, friendship, and complex family dynamics. Hatvany’s compassion for each female character is evident throughout, and readers will find their hearts, at times, breaking in three.”

– Booklist

"An insightful look at the complexities of modern family life."

– The Toronto Sun

“Readers of Amy Hatvany know that in her books, they will encounter stories that are a cut above most popular fiction…There are no easy answers here, but the engaging characters find their own way forward.”

– Seattle Times

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