By: Elizabeth Zinn
Publication Date: March 2012
Reviewed by: Cory Bickel
Review Date: June 20, 2012
In the wide expanse of a secluded valley on the Arizona-Mexico border, the slow, quiet ranching life is lived alongside the cutthroat dealings of drug cartels. The beauty of the land, “hills…rounded and piled up against the mountains like waves, an ocean of land frozen in mid-motion, spattered with squat junipers and troughs of purple grass,” (pg. 13) hides a network of caves that house dangerous criminals. When rancher Ty McNeil finds himself raising the daughter of a cartel leader, the simple life that he has carefully constructed out of nothing is jeopardized. But through the trials that he faces, this self-contained loner will find the true meaning of love and family.
After the death of his mother, Ty spent his childhood with his father on the rodeo circuit, moving from city to city and living in their trailer. As an adult, he has come to love the rodeo life so much that he sacrificed his marriage for it, wandering the country alone after his father died. But at the age of thirty, Ty has a moment of epiphany in the heat of a wild ride in which he realizes that he is done with the rodeo. With no clue what his future will hold, he returns to the decrepit ranch that he inherited from his father. He begins to repair the place, all the time doubting his impulsive decision to quit, until one day a girl shows up on his porch to weather a storm. Filthy, bleeding, and pregnant, Mana speaks no English and appears to be an illegal immigrant, and Ty risks a lot in sheltering her but is reluctant to turn her in. He finds out that she is the slave of the dangerous Mexican drug dealer Blanco, who is also the father of her child. Mana shows no interest in her daughter after she is born, and it falls to Ty to care for the infant. He fumbles his way along with the help of his neighbors and longtime friends Ware and Suzanne Lewis, inevitably falling in love with little Lita and caring for her as his own. Mana disappears after regaining her strength, and Ty thinks she is out of the picture for good. He builds a family of his own with Lita, the Lewises, his girlfriend Claire, his ex-wife Lisa and their son CJ, and lives a quiet life working ranches. But the eventual reappearance of Mana and Blanco causes problems that force members of Ty’s family to protect Lita through extreme measures that will haunt them all for years to come.
Through the struggles between Lita’s blood relatives and the people whom she and Ty truly care for, Heart’s Blood explores in depth the meaning of friends, family, and love. The effects of the Mexican drug trade and the US immigration policy on the lives of everyday people are also portrayed. For a fairly short book, Heart’s Bloodspans a great length of time without sacrificing depth or character development through Zinn’s expert choices of scenes and detail. The plot unfolds as gently as the sprawling grasslands and rolling hills of the Arizona landscape that she depicts in stunning detail. Despite its dangers and problems, Ty’s world is a lovely place to become immersed in, quiet and simple, yet warm and deep and full of love.
Quill Says: A beautiful, thoughtful novel in which ties of love and blood vie for supremacy against a backdrop of lush scenery and honest lives.
For more information on Heart's Blood, please visit the publisher's website: ezinnbooks.com