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By the Book

Deep in the Heart

by Sharon Oard Warner

Dial Press, 352 pp., $23.95

It's nearly impossible to present an even and balanced view of both sides of the abortion debate without getting bogged down in emotional and religious rhetoric. With the possible exception of the movie Citizen Ruth, one side always seems to come across as righteous and the other as evil. Sharon Oard Warner has managed the feat of objectivity. Her characters wrestle with abortion and the havoc it can wreak, and no one side is presented as being right.

Set in Austin, Deep in the Heart begins with Dr. Hannah Solace, age 40, discovering that she is pregnant for the first time. After living in denial for a few weeks, she first visits a counselor at an abortion clinic and then tells her husband Carl about the baby. Hannah has doubts about her ability and desire to be a mother, mostly because of her resentment at having to raise her younger sister after their mother's death. Carl, on the other hand, is thrilled about the baby and sees it as a means to revive their disintegrating marriage. Without telling Carl, Hannah has the abortion, and he arrives at the clinic too late to prevent it.

While they are both at the clinic, protesters from a local church are picketing outside. In a weird twist, one of the church members, Penny Reed, rescues Carl from the melee, and a tenuous friendship begins.

The convergence of these characters gives the reader a better understanding of the truths surrounding abortion, namely that there aren't any. Hannah does have an abortion, but she doesn't see it as the answer for everyone. In fact, she counsels one of her students not to have one. Even though Carl disagrees with Hannah's choice, he refuses to be held up as a martyr for the cause in Penny's church. He even strikes back at the church after its members paint bomb his house. And Penny, brought up by her activist grandmother, is pro-life but disagrees with her grandmother's extreme tactics.

Deep in the Heart may not change anyone's beliefs on abortion, but it will cause readers to examine why they think the way they do about the issue. It is a deeply engaging, thought-provoking book filled with all-too-human characters.

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Deep in the Heart, Sharon Oard Warner

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