By N.J. Gallegos
© 2023 Winding Road Stories
Kindle version; file size 1658 KB
Paperback, 340 pages.
Heart failure looms in Casey’s imminent future, while she awaits her turn on the transplant list for a new one. Her deadbeat husband can’t be bothered to help her manage her sociopathic 6-year-old or keep watch over their infant daughter to ensure she’s safe around her brother. Her in-laws don’t believe there’s any reason to worry. Casey knows they’re wrong. She’s out of time, out of spoons, and out of luck—until a serial killer becomes an unexpected organ donor and pushes her in a direction she never saw coming.
I was captivated by this chilling novel, in which POV mostly switches from Casey to the killer, one Eugene Bartlett, who appears in only a few chapters before his demise. Even so, given Gallegos’s intimate treatment of both characters, it was easy to get a bit of a feel for what kind of man he was—other than a serial killer, that is. Even after his death, the author skillfully weaves in details that add to the overall picture, filling in any lingering gaps of his life. Yet even though he dies less than 25% of the way in, his presence is felt throughout the rest of the book. Very well done.
Casey is the quintessential unhappy housewife with two added bonuses: a dangerous son and a failing heart. As the story unfolds, I came to understand what Casey despised in her husband, Jack, whose POV occupies little on-the-page space. Even when not seeing him through Casey’s eyes, being in his head served to underline her feelings toward him. And there was no doubt in my mind that Owen, her young son, is anything other than a danger to himself and others. This element of the story is brought forward early in the book, and is a constant thread through nearly every page, especially given the fact that Casey fears for her infant daughter’s safety in the same house with this boy.
Gallegos masterfully weaves the threads of Casey’s predicament together such that we feel for her every step of the way. This is a story of one woman’s endurance, her revelations brought on by life-altering surgery, the nightmares that plague her thereafter, and the choices she makes when there are no good ones left. I could not put it down and read the entire book in less than 24 hours.
It’s worth noting that there are some potentially triggering issues in the book regarding violence against women and children. But then, it is classified as horror, so I expect anyone who is drawn to the story will expect that going in.
The Broken Heart is due for release in September of this year. I received an ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review, which boils down to this: if you love a heart-pounding story with a female lead character, one that will grab you and not put you down until the last page is turned, you will want to read The Broken Heart. Highly recommended.